PHI208 Ashford University Utilitarianism Article Discussion


ashford university

Question Description


One famous worry about utilitarianism is that it demands that we regard our own set of desires, ends, and our own happiness, as just one among a great many others whose lives we might impact. Accordingly, our own desires, ends, etc. bear very little weight when determining what the greatest happiness of the greatest number is, and thus what our moral responsibility is.

  1. Think of a situation or area of life in which this might be true, and our concern for our own well-being and happiness has to take a back seat to the concern for the well-being and happiness of the greatest number.
  2. What might a utilitarian say to someone who thinks this is too high a sacrifice?
  3. Would this be a plausible response? Be sure to back up your answer with references to the resources, and respond to your peers by considering what someone who disagrees with them might say.

Unformatted Attachment Preview

The required portions are marked in red on pages 5-7, 8, and 12. Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill Copyright © 2010–2015 All rights reserved. Jonathan Bennett [Brackets] enclose editorial explanations. Small ·dots· enclose material that has been added, but can be read as though it were part of the original text. Occasional •bullets, and also indenting of passages that are not quotations, are meant as aids to grasping the structure of a sentence or a thought. Every four-point ellipsis . . . . indicates the omission of a brief passage that seems to present more difficulty than it is worth. First launched: September 2005 Last amended: April 2008 Contents Chapter 1: General Remarks Chapter 2: What utilitarianism is ·Higher and Lower Pleasures· . . ·Happiness as an Aim· . . . . . . ·Self-Sacrifice· . . . . . . . . . . . ·Setting the Standard too High?· ·Is Utilitarianism Chilly?· . . . . . ·Utilitarianism as ‘Godless’· . . . ·Expediency· . . . . . . . . . . . . ·Time to Calculate?· . . . . . . . . ·Bad Faith· . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 . . . . . . 5 . . . . . . 8 . . . . . . . 11 . . . . . . 12 . . . . . . 13 . . . . . . 15 . . . . . . 15 . . . . . . 16 . . . . . . . 17 Chapter 3: What will motivate us to obey the principle of utility? 18 Chapter 4: What sort of proof can be given for the principle of utility? 24 Utilitarianism Chapter 5: The connection between ·Punishment· . . . . . . . . . . . . . ·Wages· . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ·Taxation· . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . John Stuart Mill justice and utility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ii 28 38 39 39 Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill 1: General remarks Chapter 1: General Remarks Little progress has been made towards deciding the controversy concerning the criterion of right and wrong. Among all the facts about the present condition of human knowledge, the state of this controversy is •most unlike what might have been expected and •most indicative significant of the backward state in which theorizing on the most important subjects still lingers. That is how little progress has been made! From the dawn of philosophy the question concerning the summum bonum [Latin, = ‘the greatest good’] or, what is the same thing, concerning the foundation of morality, has •been regarded as the main problem in speculative thought, •occupied the most gifted intellects, and •divided them into sects and schools, vigorously warring against one another. And after more than two thousand years the same discussions continue! Philosophers still line up under the same opposing battle-flags, and neither thinkers nor people in general seem to be any nearer to being unanimous on the subject than when young Socrates listened to old Protagoras and asserted the theory of utilitarianism against the popular morality of the so-called ‘sophist’ (I’m assuming here that Plato’s dialogue is based on a real conversation). [Except on sions of those sciences. This seems odd, but it can be explained: the detailed doctrines of a science usually •are not deduced from what are called its first principles and •don’t need those principles to make them evident. If this weren’t so, there would be no science more precarious, and none whose conclusions were more weakly based, than algebra. This doesn’t get any of its certainty from what are commonly taught to learners as its •elements ·or first principles·, because •these, as laid down by some of its most eminent teachers, are as full of fictions as English law and as full of mysteries as theology. The truths that are ultimately accepted as the first principles of a science are really the last results of metaphysical analysis of the basic notions that are involve in the science in question. Their relation to the science is not that of •foundations to a building but of •roots to a tree, which can do their job equally well if they are never dug down to and exposed to light. But though in science the particular truths precede the general theory, the reverse of that might be expected with a practical art such as morals or legislation. [Here an ‘art’ is any activity requiring a set of rules or techniques, and ‘practical’ means ‘having to do with human conduct’.] All action is for the sake of some end; and it seems natural to suppose that rules of action must take their whole character and colour from the end at which actions aim. When we are pursuing something, a clear and precise conception of what we are pursuing would seem to be the first thing we need, rather than being the last we are to look forward to. One would think that a test ·or criterion· of right and wrong must be •the means of discovering what is right or wrong, and not •a consequence of having already discovered this. page 14, ‘popular’ is used in this work only to mean ‘of the people’, with no implication about being liked.] It is true that similar confusion and uncertainty, and in some cases similar disagreements, exist concerning the basic principles of all the sciences—even including the one that is thought to be the most certain of them, namely mathematics—without doing much harm, and usually without doing any harm, to the trustworthiness of the conclu1 Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill 1: General remarks from which the rest can be rigorously deduced·. Yet they seldom attempt to provide a list of the a priori principles that are to serve as the premises of the science; and they almost never make any effort to reduce those various principles to one first principle, one first all-purpose ground of obligation. Instead, they either •treat the ordinary precepts of morals as though they had a priori authority or •lay down as the all-purpose groundwork of those maxims some general moral principle that is much less obviously authoritative than the maxims themselves and hasn’t ever been widely accepted. Yet to support their claims there ought to be one fundamental principle or law at the root of all morality; or if there are several of them, •they should be clearly rank-ordered in relation to one another, and •there should be a self-evident principle or rule for deciding amongst them when they conflict ·in a particular case·. The difficulty can’t be avoided by bringing in the popular theory of a natural ·moral· faculty, a sense or instinct informing us of right and wrong. For one thing, the ‘criterion’ dispute includes a dispute about whether there is any such moral instinct. And, anyway, believers in it who have any philosophical ability have been obliged to abandon the idea that it—·the moral faculty or ‘moral sense’ or moral intuition·—picks out what is right or wrong in this or that •particular case in the way that our other senses pick up the sight or sound that is actually present ·in the •particular concrete situation·. Our moral faculty, according to all those of its friends who are entitled to count as thinkers, supplies us only with the •general principles of moral judgments; it belongs with reason and not with sense-perception; what we can expect from it are the abstract doctrines of morality, and not the perception of morality in particular concrete situations. The intuitionist school of ethics insists on the necessity of general laws just as much as does the inductive school (as we might label it). They both agree that ·knowing· the morality of an individual action is not a matter of •direct perception but of the •application of a law to an individual case. The two schools mostly agree also in what moral laws they recognize; but they differ on •what makes those moral laws evident, and •what give them their authority. According to the intuitionists, the principles of morals are evident a priori: if you know the meanings of the terms in which they are expressed, you’ll have to assent to them. According to the inductivists, •right and wrong are questions of observation and experience just as •truth and falsehood are. But both schools hold equally that morality must be deduced from principles; and the intuitive school affirm as strongly as the inductive does that there is a science of morals—·i.e. an organized system containing basic axioms The lack of any clear recognition of an ultimate standard may have •corrupted the moral beliefs of mankind or made them uncertain; on the other hand, the bad effects of this deficiency may have •been moderated in practice. To determine how far things have gone in the •former way and how far in the •latter would require a complete critical survey of past and present ethical doctrine. But it wouldn’t be hard to show that whatever steadiness or consistency mankind’s moral beliefs have achieved has been mainly due to the silent influence of a standard that hasn’t been ·consciously· recognised. In the absence of an acknowledged first principle, ethics has been not so much a •guide to men in forming their moral views as a •consecration of the views they actually have; but men’s views—both for and against—are greatly influenced by what effects on their happiness they suppose things to have; and so the principle of utility—or, as Bentham eventually called it, ‘the greatest happiness principle’—has had a large share in forming the moral doctrines even of those who 2 Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill most scornfully reject its authority. And every school of thought admits that the influence of actions on happiness is a very significant and even predominant consideration in many of the details of morals, however unwilling they may be to allow the production of happiness as the fundamental principle of morality and the source of moral obligation. I might go much further and say that a priori moralists can’t do without utilitarian arguments (I am not talking about the ones who don’t think they need to argue at all!). It is not my present purpose to criticise these thinkers; but I can’t refrain from bringing in as an illustration a systematic treatise by one of the most illustrious of the a priori moralists, the Metaphysics of Ethics by Kant. This remarkable man, whose system of thought will long remain one of the landmarks in the history of philosophical thought, lays down in that treatise a universal first principle as the origin and ground of moral obligation: Act in such a way that the rule on which you act could be adopted as a law by all rational beings. But when he begins to derive any of the actual duties of morality from this principle he fails, almost grotesquely, to show that there would be any contradiction—any logical impossibility, or even any physical impossibility—in the adoption by all rational beings of the most outrageously immoral rules of conduct. All he shows is that the universal adoption of such rules would have consequences that no-one would choose to bring about. In the present work I shall, without further discussion of the other theories, try to contribute something towards the understanding and appreciation of the Utilitarian or Happiness theory, and towards such proof as it can be given. Obviously this can’t be ‘proof’ in the ordinary and popular meaning of that word. Questions about ultimate ends can’t be settled by direct proof. You can prove something to be 1: General remarks good only by showing that it is a means to something that is admitted without proof to be good. The art of medicine is proved to be good by its conducing to health, but how is it possible to prove that health is good? The art of music is good because (among other reasons) it produces pleasure, but what proof could be given that pleasure is good? So if it is claimed that •there is a comprehensive formula that covers everything that is good in itself, and •whatever else is good is not good as an end but as a means ·to something that is covered by the formula·, the formula may be accepted or rejected but it can’t be given what is commonly called a ‘proof’. But we shouldn’t infer that its acceptance or rejection must depend on blind impulse or arbitrary choice. There is a broader meaning of the word ‘proof’ in which this question is as capable of ·being settled by· ‘proof’ as any other of the disputed questions in philosophy. The subject is within reach of the faculty of reason, which doesn’t deal with it solely by ·moral· intuitions ·such as the intuitionists believe in·. Considerations can be presented that are capable of determining the intellect either to give or withhold its assent to the doctrine; and this is equivalent to proof. We shall examine presently what sort of thing these considerations are and how they apply to the question at hand. In doing this we shall be examining what rational grounds can be given for accepting or rejecting the utilitarian formula. But if there is to be rational acceptance or rejection, the formula should first be correctly understood. I believe that •the chief obstacle to acceptance of the utilitarian principle has been people’s very imperfect grasp of its meaning, and that if the misunderstandings of it—or even just the very gross ones—could be cleared up, the question would be greatly simplified and a large proportion of its difficulties 3 Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill removed. So before I embark on the philosophical grounds that can be given for assenting to the utilitarian standard, I shall offer some illustrations of the doctrine itself; aiming to •show more clearly what it is, •distinguish it from what it is not, and •dispose of such of the practical objections to it as 2: What utilitarianism is come from or are closely connected with mistaken interpretations of its meaning. Having thus prepared the ground, I shall afterwards try to throw as much light as I can on the question, considered as one of philosophical theory. Chapter 2: What utilitarianism is by it not •something to be contrasted with pleasure but •pleasure itself together with freedom from pain; and instead of opposing the useful to the agreeable or the ornamental, they have always declared that ‘useful’ includes these among other things. Yet the common herd, including the herd of writers—not only in newspapers and magazines but in intellectually ambitious books—are perpetually falling into this shallow mistake. Having caught up the word ‘utilitarian’, while knowing nothing whatever about it but its sound, they habitually express by it keeping out or neglecting pleasure in some of its forms, such as beauty, ornament and amusement. And when the term ‘utility’ is ignorantly misused in this way, it isn’t always in criticism of utilitarianism; occasionally it occurs when utilitarianism is being complimented, the idea being that utility is something •superior to frivolity and the mere pleasures of the moment, ·whereas really it •includes them·. This perverted use is the only one in which the word ‘utility’ is popularly known, and the one from which the young are now getting their sole notion of its meaning. Those who introduced the word, but who had for many years stopped using it as a doctrinal label, may well feel Some people have supposed that those who stand up for ‘utility’ as the test of right and wrong use that term in the restricted and merely colloquial sense in which ‘utility’ is opposed to pleasure. A passing remark is all that needs to be given to that ignorant blunder. [This is probably a protest against, among other things, a school-master in Dickens’s fine novel Hard Times, whose approach to education insisted on what is ‘useful’ I owe an apology to the philosophical opponents of utilitarianism for even briefly seeming to regard them as capable of so absurd a misunderstanding. The blunder is all the more extraordinary given that another of the common charges against utilitarianism is the opposite accusation that it bases everything on pleasure (understood very crudely). One able writer has pointedly remarked that the same sort of persons, and often the very same persons, denounce the theory ‘as impracticably dry when the word “utility” precedes the word “pleasure”, and as too practicably voluptuous when the word “pleasure” precedes the word “utility” ’! Those who know anything about the matter are aware that every writer from Epicurus to Bentham who maintained the theory of ‘utility’ meant and flatly opposed any kind of pleasure.] 4 Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill themselves called upon to resume it, if by doing so they can hope to contribute anything towards rescuing it from this utter degradation.1 The doctrine that the basis of morals is utility, or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong in proportion as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By ‘happiness’ is meant pleasure and the absence of pain; by ‘unhappiness’ is meant pain and the lack of pleasure. To give a clear view of the moral standard set up by the theory, much more needs to be said, especially about what things the doctrine includes in the ideas of pain and pleasure, and to what extent it leaves this as an open question. But these supplementary explanations don’t affect the theory of life on which this theory of morality is based—namely the thesis that pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things that are desirable as ends, and that everything that is desirable at all is so either •for the pleasure inherent in it or •as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain. (The utilitarian system has as many things that are desirable, in one way or the other, as any other theory of morality.) Now, such a theory of life arouses utter dislike in many minds, including some that are among the most admirable in feeling and purpose. The view that life has (as they express it) no higher end —no better and nobler object of desire and pursuit—than pleasure they describe as utterly mean and grovelling, a doctrine worthy only of pigs. The followers of 1 2: What utilitarianism is Epicurus were contemptuously compared with pigs, very early on, and modern holders of the utilitarian doctrine are occasionally subjected to equally polite comparisons by its German, French, and English opponents. ·Higher and Lower Pleasures· When attacked in this way, the Epicureans have always answered that it is not they but their accusers who represent human nature in a degrading light, because the accusation implies that human beings are capable only of pleasures that pigs are also capable of. If this were true, there’d be no defence against the charge, but then it wouldn’t be a charge; for if the sources of pleasure were precisely the same f ...
Purchase answer to see full attachment

Final Answer


Surname: 1

Student’s Name
Professor’s Name

Under utilitarianism theory, the available parts of the law are used to maximize the
satisfaction to the society. Criminal issues and rules are always inconsistent with the satisfaction;
hence, they should be maintained at the lowest level as possible. Utilitarian philosophy is well
informed that there is no society exists without the occurrences of crime at any given time
because people are prone to mistakes that need to be corrected by the law. The correction made
on the offenders is always done by imposing rules based on the rule of law.
The utilitarianism theory is considered as “consequentialist” in nature due to the reason
that it identifies that rules have repercussion for both the offender and the society thus it holds
the whole good produced by the sentence is a must to be ...

veromuziki (511)

Top quality work from this tutor! I’ll be back!

It’s my second time using SP and the work has been great back to back :) The one and only resource on the Interwebs for the work that needs to be done!

Thanks, good work


Brown University

1271 Tutors

California Institute of Technology

2131 Tutors

Carnegie Mellon University

982 Tutors

Columbia University

1256 Tutors

Dartmouth University

2113 Tutors

Emory University

2279 Tutors

Harvard University

599 Tutors

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2319 Tutors

New York University

1645 Tutors

Notre Dam University

1911 Tutors

Oklahoma University

2122 Tutors

Pennsylvania State University

932 Tutors

Princeton University

1211 Tutors

Stanford University

983 Tutors

University of California

1282 Tutors

Oxford University

123 Tutors

Yale University

2325 Tutors