Mills utilitarianism

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Grade for: Mill's Defence of Utilitarianism
Mill is more worried about the objections against Bentham’s Utilitarianism. His book Utilitarianism is a defence of the basics of Utilitarian doctrine, which both seeks to answer some of the objections to Bentham and reformulate Utilitarianism to avoid those objections. What are some of Mill’s replies to the objections to Bentham’s moral philosophy?Sample Correct Answer (a) The Happy Pig Objection: Mill answers this by more or less conceding its main point, but tries to explain why we rank the pleasures of intellectual discovery and higher culture over those of scratching and rolling about in mud. His explanation, however, seeks not to avoid explaining such rankings on the basis that the objects of higher pleasures areintrinsically more worthy than those of the lower pleasures. He needs to avoid this idea because his basic view is that it is being pleased that is the source of value. And, of course, as Bentham recognised, a pig in mud is as pleased as Socrates solving a problem, inasmuch as both are enjoying pleasure. So, if he is to be able to distinguish Socrates’ pleasures as of higher rank those of the pig, he has todo this without appealing to the idea that there is something about intellectual discovery that is simply more valuable than rolling in mud. So to do this, he appeals to what the person who has experienced both pleasure would choose if given the choice between the two. He suggests that the reason the pleasure of intellectual discover (or listening to Mozart or whatever) is of higher rank than thepleasure of rolling in mud is that the fact that someone who has experienced both pleasures would desire and choose the pleasure of intellectual discovery rather than that of rolling in the mud, shows that the pleasure of intellectual discovery is more desirable than that of rolling in the mud. Hence, it is of higher rank. This doesn’t really work for two reasons: those who have experienced both donot always choose the intellectual pleasure over the physical pleasure when given a choice- it just depends on what else has been going on, how tired they are, etc, what they choose. On Mill’s criterion this would mean that sometimes the pleasure of rolling in the mud is a higher pleasure than intellectual discovery (an odd implication, one might think). And second, something’s being desired doesnot imply that it is desirable- for the latter means it is good to desire, not that it can be desired. Mill just makes a mistake here. (b) If Utilitarianism is correct, moral reasoning requires us to calculate much more than anyone reasonably can be asked to: In response to this objection, Mill basically accepts that Bentham’s Act Utilitarianism is wrong. It asks too much of moral reflectiondecision by decision. So, Mill suggest an alternative conception of Utilitarianism. Where Bentham had applied the Principle of Utility to each act on each occasion of decision, Mill suggest that it be applied in a two step conception of moral reasoning. Ordinary moral reasoning, Mill suggests, is fine most of the time. Ordinarily, he suggests, we apply familiar, pretty specific moral rules to theparticular occasions when we have to make decisions: don’t lie! Don’t steal other’s things! Don’t kill people! Don’t cause harm! Don’t commit adultery! Pay your bills! Take care of your children! And so on. However, the question arises which rules we should follow. After all, not all cultures follow exactly the same such specific rules. Some culture, when marriage is an issue, permit a man to marry anumber of women. Some cultures permit the care of children to be shared among relatives and the nuclear family is not so important. Mill’s version of Utilitarianism suggests that we apply the Principle of Utility not to particular actions or decision we have to make but to the question which rules a society should follow. Hence, moral decision making has two stages. Mostly we work on the first...
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