Utilitarianism and happiness

This seems to tip the balance in favour of saying that Mill is best classified as an act utilitarian. In all probability, it was not a distinction that Mill was particularly trying to make and so the evidence in his writing is inevitably mixed.

The rules of the road do not tell drivers when to drive or what their destination should be for example. This quote dates back to the very first advocacy of hedonistic philosophy in the human civilization. Mill says that good actions lead to pleasure and define good character.

The principle of utility does not mean that any given pleasure, as music, for instance, or any given exemption from pain, as for example health, are to be looked upon as means to a collective something termed happiness, and to be desired on that account.

Another misconception about utilitarianism stems from a confusion of happiness with contentment. A few rays of happiness do, indeed, sometimes illuminate our horizon, but the passing clouds seldom fail to convince us that their duration is not to be depended upon.

But, for the most part, the consideration of what would happen if everyone did the same, is the only means we have of discovering the tendency of the act in the particular case. More generally, if everyone believed that morality permitted lying, promise-breaking, cheating, and violating the law whenever doing so led to good results, then no one could trust other people to obey these rules.

Act and Rule Utilitarianism

Criticisms[ edit ] Because utilitarianism is not a single theory but a cluster of related theories that have been developed over two hundred years, criticisms can be made for different reasons and have different targets.

In addition, the costs i.

Notes on Utilitarianism

Conclusion The debate between act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism highlights many important issues about how we should make moral judgments. We also switch to critical thinking when trying to deal with unusual situations or in cases where the intuitive moral rules give conflicting advice.

One way to do this is to identify specific conditions under which violating a general moral requirement would be justified.


What this shows is that actual consequence and foreseeable consequence utilitarians have different views about the nature of utilitarian theory. When we are "playing God or the ideal observer", we use the specific form, and we will need to do this when we are deciding what general principles to teach and follow.

They do not have the authority to do whatever they think will lead to the best results in particular cases. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, Utilitarianism and happiness is never attained. Mill also acknowledges that "many who are capable of the higher pleasures, occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower.

Morality, Utilitarianism, and Rights. Predicting consequences[ edit ] Some argue that it is impossible to do the calculation that utilitarianism requires because consequences are inherently unknowable. They are desired and desirable in and for themselves; besides being means, they are a part of the end.

They are humans too, they have feelings as well. Perhaps aware that Hutcheson eventually removed his algorithms for calculating the greatest happiness because they "appear'd useless, and were disagreeable to some readers", [23] Bentham contends that there is nothing novel or unwarranted about his method, for "in all this there is nothing but what the practice of mankind, wheresoever they have a clear view of their own interest, is perfectly conformable to.

In order to have a criminal justice system that protects people from being harmed by others, we authorize judges and other officials to impose serious punishments on people who are convicted of crimes. This attitude, along with the attempted qualitative distinctions among pleasures, and utilitarianism's tendency to condone inequitable distributions or even the abuse of minorities has led to frequent charges of elitism.

It is usual [35] to say that Mill is committing a number of fallacies.

Jeremy Bentham (1748—1832)

A person's satisfaction is not part of any greater satisfaction. We will become bored and depressed. In a famous article, Peter Singer defends the view that people living in affluent countries should not purchase luxury items for themselves when the world is full of impoverished people.

Moreover, they say, rule utilitarianism can recognize justifiable partiality to some people without rejecting the commitment to impartiality that is central to the utilitarian tradition.

Overall then, rule utilitarian can allow departures from rules and will leave many choices up to individuals. Day and night make merry.

However, there are some times when we must ascend to a higher "critical" level of reflection in order to decide what to do, and must think as an Act Utilitarian would.

This widely reprinted article, though it does not focus on utilitarianism, uses utilitarian reasoning and has sparked decades of debate about moral demandingness and moral impartiality. These include charges that utilitarianism: In fact, however, the theory is complex because we cannot understand that single principle unless we know at least three things: It is probably a matter of temperament, and for anything I know it may be glandular.

The History of Utilitarianism

This has led to scholarly debates about whether the classical utilitarians supported act utilitarians or rule utilitarians or some combination of these views. In addition, while the act utilitarian commitment to impartiality undermines the moral relevance of personal relations, rule utilitarians claim that their view is not open to this criticism.

What Utilitarianism Is Part 1 Summary Mill attempts to reply to misconceptions about utilitarianism, and thereby delineate the theory. This concept was adopted by Jeremy Bentham, the founder of Utilitarianism, and can be seen in his works.

Justifications of moral rules, he claims, must be strictly impartial.


In Moral ThinkingHare illustrated the two extremes.DEFINITION AND ORIGINES. Utilitarianism is mainly characterized by two elements: happiness and consequentialism.

Utilitarian happiness is the biggest happiness. If you answered yes, you were probably using a form of moral reasoning called "utilitarianism." Stripped down to its essentials, utilitarianism is a moral principle that holds that the morally right course of action in any situation is the one that produces the greatest balance of benefits over.

Consequentialist moral theories are teleological: they aim at some goal state and evaluate the morality of actions in terms of progress toward that henrydreher.com best known version of consequentialism is henrydreher.com theory defines morality in terms of the maximization of net expectable utility for all parties affected by a decision or action.

John Stuart Mill (–) was the most famous and influential British philosopher of the nineteenth century. He was one of the last systematic philosophers, making significant contributions in logic, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political philosophy, and social theory.

Quotations about happiness, unhappiness, and attitude, from The Quote Garden. Utilitarianism has, however, been out of fashion for several generations, partly because of the belief that happiness was too unfathomable.

In recent years, that has begun to change. The "science" of happiness, which has emerged in the US in the last 20 years, supports the idea that happiness is an objective dimension of experience.

Utilitarianism and happiness
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