Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Pleasure, Theory, Utilitarianism, Actions, People, Human, Education, Doctrine

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/01

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory that bases right and wrong on the consequences of choosing one action over another. According to Bentham’s principle of utility, an action should be chosen based on the amount of pain or pleasure it brings. John Stuart Mill adjusted Bentham’s theory by emphasizing that it is not the quantity of pleasure that should approve or disapprove an action but the quality of happiness. He claimed there is a distinction between higher and lower pleasures. The basic principle of utilitarianism is that it is an action that is right to the degree where it encourages the maximum good for the greatest number (Carnegie Mellon University).
According to Mill, the greatest good is the tendency to increase or diminish happiness or pleasure. Mill also claimed that pleasures are not equal and that they are different both quantitatively and qualitatively. A person’s action is considered to be right if the action creates the greatest good for the most people. For example, in a hostage situation where thirty people are held hostage. If the hostage taker is shot or taken into custody, those actions against him promote the greatest good for the hostages. Based on the utilitarianism theory, an action in this case killing the hostage taker is judged on the resulting outcome that is the safety release of the hostages (Kay).

Doctrine of Swine

The doctrine of swine objection claims that the utilitarian doctrine is unfit for human beings because it recognizes no higher purpose to life other than being happy or the mere pursuit of pleasure. According to this principle, if the theory of utilitarian is correct, then people have the same goal in life as a pig. Mill argued that it was this objection that portrays the human nature in a degrading light as compared to the theory of utilitarianism. Mill contends that human beings are different from animals not only because a human being can experience mental pleasures but also because humans prefer mental pleasures to bodily pleasures. According to him, people who are competently acquainted with both kinds of pleasures are the only qualified people to judge and maintains that they prefer mental pleasures.
Mill argues that it is unreasonable for critics to state that pleasure is only for swine because human beings and animals have different capacities for pleasure. He also claims that the argues that if the accusations were true, the rule of life could not be argued better for one compare to another and that the comparison itself is degrading. The objection also claims that amount of pleasure a person has is not the only important moral consideration, and that makes the theory of utilitarianism false (Southern Connecticut State University).
Mill also responds to the doctrine of swine by clarifying that there are two types of pleasures: sensual or bodily pleasures and mental pleasures. Sensual pleasures can be experienced by both animals and humans, and mental pleasures can only be experienced by humans. Mill also distinguishes the level of pleasure as higher and lower pleasure, pleasure of the mind as being higher than bodily pleasure. He claims that people have higher capacities for pleasure than animals.
Mill’s argument against the doctrine of swine is successful, but it also leaves some questions unanswered and even raises more questions about the theory of utilitarianism. Mill entertains the possibility that the quality of pleasure could entirely trump quantity. Mill claims it is better to be a dissatisfied human being than a satisfied pig and better to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied fool. The test of quality of pleasure is what informed experts prefer. The experts deciding what form of pleasure is more superior in terms of quality must have experienced both forms of pleasures, and they should be capable of appreciating both. Mill does not say in his argument whether expert preference is the evidence of qualitative superiority. Instead, he makes expert preference the proof that one form of pleasure is of higher quality than the other (University of California).
Mill claims that some people experience higher pleasures and lower pleasures than others. However, they opt for the lower ones. For example, a person would read poetry and then devote their entire life to gin drinking. Mill claims that a person who prefers the lower pleasures has already lost the capacity for the higher one. Critics claim that experiencing one type of pleasure may make one unfit to experience others. Such an argument makes the test for superior pleasure indeterminate. A person could simply accept Mill’s doctrine since the pig pleasures are preferred even by the qualified experts.

Problems with Utilitarianism

Utilitarian calculation requires one to assign a value to the benefits and harms that result from certain actions and to compare them to the benefits and harm that would result from another action. It is challenging and sometimes it is unmanageable to measure and compare the value of certain benefits. For example, how does one compare the value of money to that of life or that of human dignity? Also, it is not possible to be completely certain about all the consequences of a certain action.
Utilitarianism does not take into account the considerations of justice. For instance, where an action can be of great benefit to the society but still unjust. If making moral decisions requires one to take into account the considerations of justice then utilitarianism cannot be the only ethical principle to guide people when making such a decision. One of the most common criticism of utilitarianism is that it is not possible to measure happiness. Also, there is no way of calculating intensity and extent or intensity and probability. Others argue that it is impossible to calculate all the effects for all individuals because of the number of people involved or as a result of uncertainty. The theory of utilitarianism raises many questions, and it will always be a topic of discussion even in the years to come (Velasquez et al.).

Works Cited

Carnegie Mellon University. Utilitarian Theories, 2002. Web. 6 Feb 2015. Retrieved from http://caae.phil.cmu.edu/Cavalier/80130/part2/sect9.html
Kay, Charles D. Notes on Utilitarianism, 1997. Web. 6 Feb 2015. Retrieved from http://sites.wofford.edu/kaycd/utilitarianism/
Southern Connecticut State. Mill, Kant, Plato and Aristotle, 2015. Web. 6 Feb 2015. Retrieved from http://home.southernct.edu/~gillilandr1/phil200/Mill&Kant.htm
Velasquez, Manuel, Claire Andre, Thomas Shanks & Michael Meyer J. Calculating Consequences: The Utilitarian Approach to Ethics, 2014. Web. 6 Feb 2015. Retrieved from http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/decision/calculating.html

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WePapers. (2020, November, 01) Good Utilitarianism Essay Example. Retrieved April 20, 2024, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-utilitarianism-essay-example/
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Good Utilitarianism Essay Example. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/good-utilitarianism-essay-example/. Published Nov 01, 2020. Accessed April 20, 2024.

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