Table of Contents Summary Utilitarianism, by John Stuart Mill, is an essay written to provide support for the value of utilitarianism as a moral theory, and to respond to misconceptions about it. Mill defines utilitarianism as a theory based on the principle that "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. He argues that pleasure can differ in quality and quantity, and that pleasures that are rooted in one's higher faculties should be weighted more heavily than baser pleasures.
Precursors to the Classical Approach Though the first systematic account of utilitarianism was developed by Jeremy Bentham —the core insight motivating the theory occurred much earlier. Of these, Francis Hutcheson — is explicitly utilitarian when it comes to action choice.
They believed that promoting human happiness was incumbent on us since it was approved by God. This view was combined with a view of human motivation with egoistic elements.
For example, Gay was curious about how to explain our practice of approbation and disapprobation of action and character.
When we see an act that is vicious we disapprove of it. Further, we associate certain things with their effects, so that we form positive associations and negative associations that also underwrite our moral judgments.
This is a feature crucial to the theological approach, which would clearly be rejected by Hume in favor of a naturalistic view of human nature and a reliance on our sympathetic engagement with others, an approach anticipated by Shaftesbury below.
The theological approach to utilitarianism would be developed later by William Paley, for example, but the lack of any theoretical necessity in appealing to God would result in its diminishing appeal. This seems to have been an innate sense of right and wrong, or moral beauty and deformity.
Again, aspects of this doctrine would be picked up by Francis Hutcheson and David Hume — Hume, of course, would clearly reject any robust realist implications.
If the moral sense is like the other perceptual senses and enables us to pick up on properties out there in the universe around us, properties that exist independent from our perception of them, that are objective, then Hume clearly was not a moral sense theorist in this regard.
But perception picks up on features of our environment that one could regard as having a contingent quality. There is one famous passage where Hume likens moral discrimination to the perception of secondary qualities, such as color.
In modern terminology, these are response-dependent properties, and lack objectivity in the sense that they do not exist independent of our responses.
If an act is vicious, its viciousness is a matter of the human response given a corrected perspective to the act or its perceived effects and thus has a kind of contingency that seems unsettling, certainly unsettling to those who opted for the theological option.
So, the view that it is part of our very nature to make moral discriminations is very much in Hume. Here it sometimes becomes difficult to disentangle egoistic versus utilitarian lines of thought in Shaftesbury.
Further, to be virtuous a person must have certain psychological capacities — they must be able to reflect on character, for example, and represent to themselves the qualities in others that are either approved or disapproved of.
Animals also lack the capacity for moral discrimination and would therefore seem to lack the moral sense. This raises some interesting questions. It would seem that the moral sense is a perception that something is the case.
It also has a propositional aspect, so that animals, which are not lacking in other senses are lacking in this one. The virtuous person is one whose affections, motives, dispositions are of the right sort, not one whose behavior is simply of the right sort and who is able to reflect on goodness, and her own goodness [see Gill].
Similarly, the vicious person is one who exemplifies the wrong sorts of mental states, affections, and so forth.In a series of essays, Goodin argues that utilitarianism is the best philosophy for public decision-making even if it fails as an ethic for personal aspects of life.
Derek Parfit. On What Matters. Essays and criticism on John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism - Critical Essays.
doctrine in Utilitarianism (). The essay displays Mill's emphasis on rational calculation as the means by which. Essay Sample on Utilitarianism During the first half of the nineteenth century Jeremy Bentham proposed a quantification, or calculus, of morality by reference to utilitarian outcomes.
Utilitarianism might say let man die and use his organ to save as many people as possible to maximize the happiness of the world. However, according to deontologist allowing the man to die would not make that decision justify.
Mar 24, · This essay – or post if you wish – is intended as a concise exploration of utilitarianism, one of many ethical movements within the world of moral philosophy. An understanding of this topic could prove useful to IB philosophy students taking ethics as one of their chosen options.
The Ethical Theory Of Utilitarianism Philosophy Essay. Print Reference this. Published: 23rd March, According to utilitarianism, it is out duty to help people without worrying about consequences, for example, Mills thinks we should do charities as much as we can without having affected or damage on ourselves because giving charity will.