The Theory of Utilitarianism

Pages: 4 (571 words) Published: May 23, 2014
Ehtisham Waqar
Josh Mildenberger

Moral theories try to explain what distinguishes right actions from wrong ones. The theory of utilitarianism tries to do the same by incorporating several aspects that set up a moral standard to help investigate the balance between right and wrong. John Stuart Mill, a British philosopher of the 1800’s defends the utilitarian school of thought by pointing out what it is that makes utilitarianism the standard theory for morality. According to Utilitarianism as explained by Mill in his essay “In Defense of Utilitarianism” the fundamental principle of morality is the promotion of happiness on a scale that benefits an individual and the ones around him; also to promote pleasure and to prevent pain. Several major objections are raised towards the moral theory of utilitarianism some examples can be the idea that the theory asserts too much emphasis on pursuing pleasure which makes it "a doctrine worthy of swine" (“Defense”). Another objection is that in everyday circumstances it is impossible for humans to make a morally just decision (“Defense”). An additional counter-argument that struck me the most was the statement that utilitarianism sets standards that are deemed "too high for humanity" (“Defense”). What this objection projects are the predisposed and unwarranted capabilities of the human race. According to this statement humanity is made comparable to other (lower ranking) species that lack the intrinsic values that make us humans human; like thinking faculties that are much superior to other animals or the ability to have languages or develop intricate cultural systems, just to name few. Therefore, making this objection a weak one and one that displays an inferior and subjacent view towards the principle of morality. Mill on the other hand deduces the true motives of these objections and labels these ideas as being of such nature that promote actions in accordance with one obliging to a certain duty. If that is...

Cited: 1. Mill, John Stuart. “In Defense of Utilitarianism”. From Conduct and Character, Ed. Mark Timmons. Wadsworh Publishing Company: Belmont, California, 1990, pp. 172-179. ISBN: 0534121268
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