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Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- John Stewart Mill – Utilitarianism March 1, 2009

Filed under: itethic — hikaru011 @ 2:50 pm
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Otsuka Hikaru

ITETHIC

Book: Contemporary Moral Problems

Book Review: Chapter 1- Ethical Theories- John Stewart Mill – Utilitarianism

Library Reference: N/A

Internet Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism

Learning Expectation:

  • I expect to learn Utilitarianism

  • Greatest Happiness principle

  • Higher and Lower Pleasure

Quote:

By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure.”

“Principle of Utility or the Greatest Happiness Principle, says that the ultimate end, with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable, whether we are considering our own good or that of other people, is an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible from enjoyments, both in point of quantity and quality.”

Book Review:

Utilitarianism, according to wikipedia, is the idea that the moral worth of an action is determined solely by its contribution to overall utility: that is, its contribution to happiness or pleasure as summed among all persons. The principle of utility or the greatest happiness principle, for me, means that the greatest happiness must be considered first before you acknowledge your own happiness. A utilitarian standard is not the agent’s own greatest happiness, but the greatest happiness altogether. Like I said, we must first think if what we do may make others happy before we consider ourselves.

There is also higher and lower pleasure, which is said to be the two kind of pleasure. The definition depends on how you perceive happiness. For example, for me, I consider this thing as the source of my higher pleasure, while the other thing is the source of my lower pleasure. Higher pleasure for me may be the source of lower pleasure for others. It is said in the book that different people may place a different value on pleasures based on how they perceive and experience pleasure. “A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and certainly accessible to it at more point than one of an inferior type.”

Integrative Questions:

  1. What is Utilitarianism?
  2. What is the Greatest Happiness Principle?
  3. Is higher pleasure for me may be lower pleasure to others?
  4. What is a utilitarian standard?
  5. What is the Principle of Utility?

What I have learned:

I have learned that a utilitarian standard means that we should consider first the greatest happiness altogether or the happiness of most people before we consider our happiness. The higher and lower pleasures are categorized on how you perceive happiness.

Review Questions:

  1. State and explain the Principle of Utility. Show how it could be used to justify actions that are conventionally viewed as wrong, such as lying and stealing.

Principle of Utility or the Greatest Happiness Principle, says that the ultimate end, with reference to and for the sake of which all other things are desirable, whether we are considering our own good or that of other people, is an existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible from enjoyments, both in point of quantity and quality.

Actions like stealing and lying are viewed as wrong, I think it is because that when you lie or steal, it don’t bring happiness to us and to other people.

  1. How does Mill reply to the objection that Epicureanism is a doctrine worthy only of a swine?

Mill said that if the sources of pleasure of a human being and a swine are the same, the rule of life which is good enough for the one would be good enough for the other. The comparison of Epicurean life to that of the beasts is degrading because a beast’s definition of pleasure is not the same as of human’s conception of happiness.

  1. How does Mill distinguish between higher and lower pleasures?

Different people may place a different value on pleasures based on how they perceive and experience pleasure.

“A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and certainly accessible to it at more point than one of an inferior type.”

  1. According to Mill, whose happiness must be considered?

A utilitarian standard is not the agent’s own greatest happiness, but the greatest happiness altogether.

I think we should consider first the happiness of others, the greatest happiness, before we think about our own happiness.

  1. Carefully reconstruct Mill’s proof of the Principle of Utility.

According to Mill:

· Happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being only desirable as means to that end.

· An object is visible is that people actually see it, and so of the other sources of our experience.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is happiness nothing more than pleasure, and the absence of pain? What do you think?

No because I believe happiness is more than pleasure. Happiness can’t be measured by material things. Happiness is in accordance with virtue.

  1. Does Mill convinces you that the so-called higher pleasure are better than the lower ones? What about the person of expirience who prefers the lower preasure over the higher ones?

No. As what I’ve understand, higher pleasure for me may be lower pleasure for others. It depends on out outlook in happiness.

  1. Mill says, ” In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we can read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility.” Is this true or not?

FALSE

4. Many commentators have thought Mill’s proof of principle of utility is defective. Do you agree? If so, then what mistakes does he make? Is there any way to reformulate the proofs that it is not defective?

For me, Mill’s principle of utility is not defective.

 

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