John Stuart Mill on Utilitarianism

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One of Mill’s strongest arguments in support of his philosophy of morality is seen in the last two paragraphs on page 95 of the textbook Ethical Theory. Here we find one of Mill’s foundational arguments which he later builds upon to argue in favor of utilitarianism.

Mill’s conclusion that we find here in this particular selection is based on the assertion he makes, found in the latter part of the last complete sentence on page 95: “that happiness is a good, that each person’s happiness is a good to that person, and the general happiness, therefore, a good to the aggregate of all persons.” Here, we find three clauses, the last being the conclusion that general happiness is a good to the aggregate of all persons. To support this claim, he provides premises as to why this argument is worth believing.

The premises that lead directly to the conclusion stated above begin on page 95, in the paragraph that starts with “Questions about ends are,…” With this, a clear understanding of what Mill denotes as “happiness” is fundamental for the reader to understand before reading the premises leading up to this particular conclusion.

We find that definition in the second sentence of this essay (found on page 90). Here, Mill defines happiness when he says “by happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure.” Now that we understand how, exactly, Mill is denoting “happiness”, let us return to the conclusion we are analyzing, found on page 95. Using this definition of happiness from the first page, Mill now asserts: “the utilitarian doctrine is that happiness is desirable, and the only thing desirable, as an end; all other things being only desirable as means to that end.” We see his premises for this claim in the two paragraphs following this statement. To support his claim, Mill states that “the only proof capable of being given that an object is visible is that people...
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