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Section 6 - JOHN STUART MILL: Utilitarianism

State and Explain the Principle of Utility. Show how it could be used to justify actions that are conventionally viewed as wrong, such as lying and stealing.

According to the article, this principle “holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness”. This also discusses about pleasure and freedom from pain as the only things desirable as ends and that all desirable things are desirable either for pleasure intrinsic in themselves, or as means to the proportion of desire and the prevention of pain. In my opinion, this explains about the source of happiness of each person, thus this also allows us to understand each moral standard in which the cycle of happiness and pain is illustrated. Happiness is acquired if you achieve something you desire through mental pleasures and bodily pleasures. Mental pleasures mean that intellectual satisfaction of a thing being done and accomplish, and bodily pleasure are the physical beings and things of a person desire in order to be happy.


To illustrate further and justify some actions, for example, the view point of a wrong behavior such as lying and stealing. In a conventional point of view, lying is something that is unethical and considered a sin to God. Lying provides incorrect delivery of authentic information to be said or done. Thus, this allows people to hide themselves in case of breach or illegal doings. On the other hand, Stealing, similar to lying, also gives a notion of an evil and corrupt way of acquiring something you do not own. This shall also be a reason of imprisonment by people who does immoral acquisition of material owned by other person.

But in the utilitarianism point of view, we see that doing lying and stealing is somehow different. Both lying and stealing is bad, but in this principle, people do this in order to be satisfied on their desire. They steal money, for example, to become happy. They lie to their boss to become absolute of the things they had done bad. People would rather do this as a way of acquiring pleasure, irrespective to the moral obligations they may prefer.

How does Mill reply to the objection that Epicureanism is a doctrine worthy only to swine?


The explanation behind the Epicureanism is a doctrine worthy only to swine is that, Human beings are compared to animals in terms of satisfaction of happiness. Thus, this explains that they have both level of happiness and desired. Mill objected it, because an animal’s pleasure does not satisfy to human being’s conception of happiness. As stated in the article, Human beings have higher faculties than the animal’s appetite. Thus, Humans have a higher standard in conception in terms of happiness and pleasure. Humans could possibly be associated with intelligent man allowing himself to become a fool animal.

How does Mill distinguish between higher and lower pleasure?


Lower pleasure, in my understanding are the pleasure acquired when enjoyments capacities are low. Thus, this includes the acts of morally good deeds and in good conduct. While on the other hand, higher pleasure are pleasures reversed with Lower pleasure. They are acquired when enjoyments capacities are high, that might occasionally under the influence of temptation and unconsciousness. This however, does not generalize the acts and conduct of a person as a whole when he prefer Higher pleasures. In my understanding, this would include acquisition of power and fame for higher pleasure; and acquisition of simple material possession for lower pleasure.

According to Mill, whose happiness must be considered?

According to him, Happiness must be considered as the directive rule of human conduct. Utilitarianism explains that it could attain its end  by the cultivation of nobleness in character as a whole.

Carefully reconstructs Mill’s proof of the principle of Utility

Mill’s proof states that each person’s happiness is a good, and the general happiness, therefore, a good aggregate of all persons. Happiness concluded as an ends of conduct and eventually one of the criteria of morality.

Utilitarian doctrine is that happiness is desirable.  Happiness could be achieved if one would desire to achieve something. 

Is happiness nothing more than pleasure, and the absence of pain? What do you think?

In my opinion, it is not. Happiness is measured whether it is pleasure or not.  Pain is there before you achieve happiness. In situations, for example, desire for a delicious food is a want and to be able to satisfy yourself, you will buy it to attained pleasure and satisfaction. On the other hand, to attained happiness in association with pain, for example, a relative’s death. In spiritual perspective, you achieve happiness because you are now getting acquainted with God. But because of some scenarios such as the cause of death of that person is by accident, Pain is created before happiness.  In this case, Pain is the cause of happiness, not literal in terms of the death of a loved ones’, but because of a earthly end that happens in our lives. 

Does Mill convince you that the so-called higher pleasures are better than lower ones? What about the persons of experience who prefers the lower pleasures over the higher ones?

In my opinion, I am not convinced in the first statement, because to be able to acquire for the higher pleasures is to engage in a wrong acts in a wrong situation. Higher pleasures would most likely to be under temptation and thus this results to unconsciousness and selfish acts of a person. Power would probably in the eyes of the person seeking for higher pleasures and this would make him sightless on the things he essentially needs. On the Other hand, I am half convince and half not, on the person with lower pleasures. In my case, I prefer lower pleasure because for example, you should not be contented on simple things that make you happy. In my opinion, you should think high and achieve high for a good and better happiness. But I’m not saying to acquire high. We use our mentality to balance what is the right and wrong pleasures in life. So think wisely.

Mill says, “In the golden Rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility.” Is this true or not?

In my case, to be able to achieve happiness in life, as to what the article is saying, human conduct is the ruler of happiness. So, loving one another shall achieve a great happiness to one and all because a person is humble and good. People would acquire understanding and harmony to each other because there is association of happiness to each other as a whole.


Many commentators have though that Mill’s proof of the Principle of utility is defective. Do you agree? If so, then what mistake or mistakes does he make? Is there any way to reformulate the proof so that it is not defective?

            In my opinion, there is nothing to compare to happiness. Happiness is a feeling wherein people would be experiencing it whether they like it or not in their point in their lives. For me, happiness is something that needs not to be visible nor hear but needs to experience it to be able to feel what is supposed to be whether it is pleasure or not. As I have said earlier, happiness is not associated with pleasure because not all pleasure are happiness and not all desired are happiness and pleasure. We desire something because we want it. We feel happiness if we acquire it. But it does not satisfy us, rather it gives us only pleasure. Happiness on the other hand, gives us both satisfaction and pleasure, and at the same time, contentment because you achieve what you want, you experience the feeling, and you are contented with what you feel and satisfied in what you have done.




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