Criticism of John Mill

Topics: Morality, Human, Gain Pages: 2 (458 words) Published: March 11, 2012
Prompt 1
Two criticisms of utilitarianism influence Mill towards rule-utilitarianism. The first criticism involves objectors viewing this philosophy as encouraging society to do what is expedient for the moment (22). The second objection proposes “that there is not time, previous to action, for calculating and weighing the effects of any line of conduct on the general happiness” (23). Mill argues both of these objections by taking rule-utilitarianism into consideration. Rule- utilitarianism states that a rule should be adopted and followed when it promotes the general happiness better than any competing rule” (class notes, 27 October 2011).

Mill rejects the first objection by conceding that utilitarianism promotes expediency in regards to long-term results of happiness (22). Expediency, in regards to utilitarianism, is not meant for immediate and temporary happiness. He considers rule-utilitarianism with this criticism by addressing the act of lying (22-23). It is here that Mill’s opinion is more directed towards act-utilitarianism. It may be more expedient to lie to gain happiness for an individual, or more importantly a group. One must consider the consequences and gains in any given situation in order to decide if the rule applies. A person must assess the greatest net gain of happiness in a particular situation to decide if the rule applies. If it is more expedient to lie to achieve long-term happiness, then that is the action that must be taken.

In response to the second objection, Mill argues that society already knows, in general, which possible actions are right and which are wrong based on “…the whole past duration of the human species” (23). Therefore, it is already know how certain actions will affect the general happiness. He uses the notion of secondary morals to explain this argument. Secondary morals are in accordance with rules, such as do not murder or steal (class notes, 27 October 2011). In regards to the second criticism, Mill claims...
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