Oak Trees versus Acorns: Which is better?
It has been argued for centuries now, that people do not grow their full human potential, largely because they do not participate in a reasonably sophisticated refinement . John Stuart Mill, in his book Utilitarianism, claims that "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied" [Mill JS: 1863]. This essay will show that the advantages of being a "human dissatisfied" are better than those of a "pig satisfied". But before this can be proven, we have to understand the metaphor that compares humans to pigs.
Mill compares two types of people: people who prefer to be "humans" according to his definition, and those that prefer to be "pigs". As pigs would eat up' anything that comes their way, those who choose to live the life of the pig, accept all that they are exposed to. They live "unexamined lives" [Mill JS: 1863] in that they do not question anything, but rather accept all that they are told. A "human" on the other hand, doesn't just accept everything, but questions what there are exposed to. This type of person lives an examined life, and it is that life that Mill proposes that we should strive for.
But besides this fact, pigs and humans do have something in common. This is consciousness, as both humans and pigs are aware of their surroundings and can interact with their environments by basic instinct. This common factor helps in making an intelligent comparison between the two. The consciousness though, that they both have, is of a different character. A human's consciousness has character, and can be broken up into three main faculties. Firstly a human has conscience: the inner voice' that tells between right and wrong. Secondly a human has free will, in that humans can override instinct in order to make "free" choices. Thirdly, a human has reasoning skills, which enable humans to evaluate situations and reach conclusions. In the pig's regard, it is a lack of this character that differentiates its consciousness with that of a human. A pig doesn't have a conscience, free will or reasoning skills and is ruled by its instincts. This shows us that pigs are only composed of instinct and thus lack character. Humans are considered "higher order beings" because they are composed of character, and pigs "lower order beings" because they lack character. These aspects make Mill's metaphor very effective in helping us understand his argument and give us insight into bases he used.
But the integral question is: which life (pig or human) makes a person happier and gives them the most satisfaction and pleasure out of life?
Pleasure is a fundamental feeling that is difficult to define, but a feeling that people around the world desire to experience- similar to a human necessity . The philosophy, Utilitarianism, supports this definition of pleasure. Utilitarianism believes that all actions should be directed toward producing the greatest pleasure/happiness for the greatest amount of people. It thus places emphasis on the quantity of pleasure and that humans should try and maximise this quantity, in order to live more meaningful lives. The philosophy implies that all pleasures are equal, and only when one acquires a great quantity of that pleasure, will they become effective. Mill disagreed with the importance of the quantity of pleasure, and rather believed that the quality of pleasure is what is really important . This then implies that Mill believed that pleasures are not equal and that some pleasures are better than others. But what makes one pleasure more valuable than another? What is the characteristic that differentiates a more worthy from the less worthy pleasure? Mill answered this question, in that:
If I am asked ... what makes one pleasure more valuable than another ... there is but one possible answer. Of two pleasures, if there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of...
References: 1. Bramann, J. 2003: Educating Rita and Other Philosophical Movies. [Online]. Available: Website [31 March 2006]
2. Mill, JS. 1863: Utilitarianism. [Online] Available: Website [31 March 2006]
3. Schumacher, ER. 1977: [Online]. Available: Website [31 March 2006]
http://www.brainyquote.com/quote/authors/e/e f schumacher.html
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