Lone Star College Utilitarianism and Pursue Happiness Discussion


Question Description

Are we consequentialists in our everyday activities?

In the following weeks you will begin reading selections from ethical and moral philosophy. To start this process the first selections will concern consequentialism. Consequentialist ethical theories are those theories that evaluate actions based on their consequences. How these ethical perspectives function and what they value as fundamental moral principles vary. The prevalent version of consequentialism is utilitarianism as it was first formulated by Jeremy Bentham, and then J. S. Mill in the latter half of the 19th century. The brand of utilitarianism of encountered today originates from Mill’s formulation. Consequentialism and utilitarianism are often used synonymously, but it should be noted that the latter picks out a specific line of reasoning in moral philosophy.

With regards to what Mill has explained in the selection from his work Utilitarianism, consider the question of whether or not people are utilitarians in this sense of term. Not so much that they want to increase pleasure (whether only for themselves or others), but rather do persons act in such a manner that promotes utility (or, efficiency and expediency) for the largest possible amount of people? For instance, consider the firefighter who has a choice to save one child or to save three children. The firefighter does not know any of the children, nor does he know anything about them. But it is reasonable to assume that they would choose to save the three children over the one child. Why? Because that is simply what it would be to fulfill the role of an effective firefighter! However, this is only one instance; overall, do we have reason to believe that happiness for the greatest amount of people over the longest amount of time is in fact the sole criterion of morality as Mill suggests?

Prompt: Give an exposition of the argument that Mill provides in the assigned selection. This should include his formulation of the Principle of Utility, on which his argument relies. Then, answer the following question: Why should moral actions just result in maximizing happiness? Relying on this exposition, and your answer to the previous question, explain how people act, in both day to day and extraordinary circumstances, considering only the consequences of actions.

Required Reading: Bentham, "Classical Hedonism"; Mill "Utilitarianism" (Selection)

Recommended Reading: “Mill’s Moral and Political Philosophy” – Section 2.0, 2.3, 2.6, 2.7 & 2.11 < http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill-moral-political/ (Links to an external site.) >

Remember: A reasoned response consists of more than one words responses or simple agreement with the author of the article or post you are responding to. Please cite all passages in the text (including page number) and cite all outside information according to MLA guidelines. Your answer should have AT LEAST 3 responses (possibly more), aside from your original

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Utilitarianism Discussion
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Utilitarianism Discussion
Exposition of Mills’ argument
In his theory of utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill explores the utilitarian principle as a
significant element in the moral foundation. John Stuart Mill was an ardent follower of Jeremy
Bentham, who is associated with the initial development of the utilitarian principle. Bentham
believed that morals and law should be both realistic and conceived based on the needs of human
beings (Brink, 2007). It is due to his belief in the utilitarian theory that James Stuart Mill became
one of his ardent followers. In his utilitarianism theory, James Stuart Mill notes that it is that the
morality or the goodness of a thing is referred to as good when it influences the most significant
number of people positively. As such, the happiness of two people ...

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