In this paper, I will argue that Mill’s theory of morality does not withstand the philosophical reasoning; therefore, making his theory invalid. I will do so by first stating a brief synopsis of Mill’s theory and then provide two objections that go against his approach. Once I have given the two objections, I will discuss the response Mill gives for each of these objections. Finally, I will give a critical evaluation of Mill’s theory of Utilitarianism as well as give supporting evidence as to why Mill’s approach is philosophically sound.
Utilitarianism is a consequentialist moral theory that states that the consequences of a person’s actions are deemed good or bad depending on how much happiness was produced as an outcome. If stuck between two different actions, the moral one is the one that capitalizes on the amount of happiness it creates. But in the case of a utilitarian, what is the definition of happiness? A utilitarian describes happiness as pleasure and the absence of pain. John Stuart Mill believed that if certain actions were to produce or promote happiness they were morally right while other actions were to produce or promote unhappiness they were morally wrong.
This is called the Principle of Utility, a key factor in Utilitarianism. To be a utilitarian, you must believe the principle of utility as the ultimate principle of morality. Mill is a qualitative utilitarian, he stated that there are different levels of pleasure and that the meaning of life can be reduced to pleasure. This accounts for higher quality pleasures and lower quality pleasures. There are two objections that Mill faces in his theory. One being the standard too high objection and the second being the burdensome objection.
The standard too high objection states that it is too much work for everyone to always act for the benefit of the entire society. Not everyone will take the time and effort to think about what will create the most happiness for many of the people. As for the burdensome objection, this states that there is no time to calculate the pros and cons of the effects every action that a person performs to determine which of the outcomes provides the most amount of pleasure. Mill takes the time to critically think about the objections to his theory and generates responses.
For the standard, too high objection Mill responds by saying that acting to promote the happiness or pleasure of society is a motive. While he states this as being a motive, utilitarianism does not need any type of motive. Mill also acknowledged that people can encourage happiness by taking care of ourselves and our loved ones around us. He then moves on to the second objection to critically evaluate that as well. The response that Mill has formulated is that no one should have to calculate and the calculations have already been done to make choosing the right action simple. All that everyone must do is follow the rules of thumb of morality.
The rules of thumb of morality have been handed down for many years making it through generation after generations. Some of the rules that were handed down were do not lie, do not steal, do not kill, help others and many more. However, it is important to be aware that there are exceptions to the rules of thumb of morality. The exception would be if the rule of thumb clashes with the principle of utility, then this case, the principle of utility is followed and the rule of thumb is disregarded. This is described as indirect utilitarianism; applying the principle of utility to the rules of thumb.
Is Mill’s theory morally adequate? Let’s evaluate Mill’s theory of utilitarianism to ensure it is credible. Some reasons that Mill’s theory is evidently a respectable understanding of morality would be the two-part argument for the principle of utility along with why happiness is the only ultimate end. The first part of the argument for the principle of utility would be examples of the audibility of a sound being a fact that people can hear it, the visibility of an object provides a fact that people can see it, people prove the desirability of an object by desiring that object.
This in turn shows that people desire to be happy therefore happiness becomes the ultimate end. The second part of this argument would be that every individual desire to be happy. Which concludes that overall happiness is good to a society. However, this argument is not very strong due the fact that it is not possible to prove since it is just an ultimate truth. Mill believes that happiness is the only ultimate end. It is supported by demonstrating that everything that we value, we value because of one of two things.
It is either because it is a part of our perception of happiness meaning people cannot imagine missing righteousness and still being able to maintain happiness or it is only instrumentally valued and leads to happiness for that reason. What Mill means is that happiness is at least one of the precedents that make up morality. Ultimately Mill leaves it up to the reader to decide whether they believe what he has proposed. The basis of utilitarianism according to Mill is doing actions according to the rules of thumb or the principle of utility if necessary to produce the most happiness among society.
The two objections that were discussed were the standard too high and burdensome objections but Mill had responded to both critically with ease. He states for the standard too high that this is a motive and if people take care of themselves and loved ones this objection is invalid. Mill responds to the burdensome objection by stating that we should use the rules of thumb instead of calculating each action we do. I believe that Mill’s theory is practical because throughout society everyone desires and strives to be happy. It is as Mill’s proposes that happiness is the only ultimate end.