Essay About Mill Utilitarinism

Topics: Ethics, Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill Pages: 3 (796 words) Published: January 17, 2013
John Stuart Mill argues that moral theories are divided between two distinct approaches: the intuitive and inductive schools. Although both schools agree on the existence of a single and highest normative principle (being that actions are right if they tend to promote happiness and wrong if they tend to produce the reverse of happiness), they disagree about whether we have knowledge of that principle intuitively, or inductively. Mill criticises categorical imperative, stating that it is essentially the same as utilitarianism, since it involves calculating the good or bad consequences of an action to determine the morality of that action.

Mill defines "happiness" to be both intellectual and sensual pleasure. He argues that we have a sense of dignity that makes us prefer intellectual pleasures to sensual ones. He adds that the principle of utility involves assessing an action's consequences, and not the motives or character traits of the agent. Mill argues that the principle of utility should be seen as a tool for generating secondary moral principles, which promote general happiness. Thus most of our actions will be judged according to these secondary principles. He feels that we should appeal directly to the principle of utility itself only when faced with a moral dilemma between two secondary principles. For example, a moral principle of charity dictates that one should feed a starving neighbour, and the moral principle of self-preservation dictates that one should feed oneself. If one does not have enough food to do both, then one should determine whether general happiness would be better served by feeding my neighbour, or feeding oneself.

Mill discusses our motivations to abide by the utilitarian standard of morality. Man is not commonly motivated to specific acts such as to kill or steal, instead, we are motivated to promote general happiness. Mill argues that there are two classes of motivations for promoting general happiness. First, there are...
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