An essay on John Stuart Mill

Published under category: Sample Academic Papers | 2015-05-20 23:41:00 UTC

Context: Philosophy, ethics and epistemology

Online writing help for assignments on philosophers are some of the most written papers. Philosophers such as Emmanuel Kant, J.S. mill, David Hume, Hobbes, Descartes, Leibniz and many others are featured in research papers, thesis papers and dissertations. Below is an international student insight into J.S. Mill. The English philosopher and economist John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was a renowned scholar, credited as the father of utilitarianism, a moral and legal theory that is hugely studied in various realms of knowledge; ethical, political, social, economic, and even in the medical field. The theory of utilitarianism holds that the morally right thing to do is that which (whatever) maximizes welfare or the best state of affairs. The ‘welfare’ or ‘best state of affairs’ postulated in Mill’s theory refers to ‘the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people’. Therefore, the central rationale in utilitarianism is that the morally right thing to do is that which elicits the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. That said, however, in understanding utilitarianism, one must articulate that the theory is founded on the principle that happiness is the highest state of being for any human being and actually, the purpose of life in a critical sense entails achieving happiness. Happiness according to Mill is simply, the absence of pain that yields pleasure of whatever qualities and quantities. Furthermore, goals and ends that people achieve are part of morally relevant considerations. For instance, to live a virtuous life is considered being happy, because the goal or end of practicing such a virtuous life is to achieve a state of happiness. Even rights, laws, and various forms of justice do exist because they are essential for human happiness. However, for such human happiness to be achieved, there must be a maximization of utility. Conversely, the morally relevant considerations according to utilitarianism are relevant because they either indirectly or directly promote well-being in the greatest sense. The greatest happiness principle commonly known as utility postulates that an act is morally right in proportion as it is inclined towards promoting happiness, and morally wrong as it tends to elicit the opposite of happiness. When one desires to be happy, there is an intention of experiencing pleasure and necessarily that of the absence of pain. On the other hand, unhappiness literary presupposes the presence of pain as well as the privation of pleasure. Noteworthy then, being free from pain and experiencing a pleasurable feeling are desirable things for any action. Desirable in so far as, pleasure is inherent, or the goal is prevention of pain, and as such, the end is happiness. The doctrine of utilitarianism therefore holds that happiness is desirable as an end, actually the only thing desired as an end, whereas other things are only desired as the means of achieving this end. For example, the only way one can proof that a particular object is observable is only if it is visible, people can see it. If a sound is audible, people must hear it as a proof, and for that matter, also if something or anything is desirable then, people must desire it. The utilitarian doctrine indicates that there is no reason that can be accorded the fact that happiness is generally desired, except that it is evident that all human beings as they believe attainable desired to be happy in own ways. The nature of happiness is goodness and one can ascertain for sure that happiness is good and if it is generally good, it can be aggregated to all persons. It is the end of any act of conduct, and more significantly the criteria of determining morality. Having said that then, Mill divided utilitarianism into two types: act utilitarianism and rule utilitarianism. Act utilitarianism refers to the view that an act or action’s rightness is dependent only on the totality of goodness or badness of its consequences. The consequences can be determined based on the welfare or as noted earlier ‘the best state of affairs’ for all sentient beings perhaps. Rightness therefore is predicted on the nature of consequences an act produces, either good or bad. A good example is that of staying at home to watch television in contrast to going out to perform charity works. In this case, act utilitarianism proposes that, it is fundamental to compare the consequences of going out to do works of charity next weekend with those of remaining in the house to watch television next weekend. Remaining in the house to watch television will offer one individual pleasure as the consequence. Might be, after a long week at work, one may need to watch television for relaxation and to do away with work pressure. On the other hand however, going out to do charity works either by visiting the disabled in a facility or helping feeding the sick in a health facility would elicit happiness for the greatest number of people as compared to a sole individual. Act utilitarianism would therefore support the act of going out for charity work as the morally right thing to do because it produces happiness to more people than staying at home to be happy along by watching television. In a critical view however, act utilitarianism seems to decree that even some bad actions such as killing may be morally right at some circumstances. Consider a scenario where many people are trapped in a house on fire that only has one escape door, where a very fat person has been trapped on the door because of the size. In this case, rescuers are in a dilemma whether to tear in pieces the fat person in order to allow the other five people to be rescued from the house, without which all would die. Act utilitarianism of course would say it is morally right to carry out an action that gives the greatest amount of happiness to the highest number of people, and clearly, killing this fat person on the door would give happiness to the five trapped people in the house, because they would be rescued. Killing one person for the sake of five according to act utilitarianism is morally right. This however, elicits a further moral dilemma. Killing is morally wrong, and especially when killing an innocent person for the expense of other innocent persons. In such incident, a more logical solution could be found, such as trying to create another escape route to rescue the people or enlarging the size of the door as possible so that the fat person can pass and allow the five others to come out. However, contemplating merely on the notion that killing one will safe many, would be morally unacceptable because all human lives are equally valuable and important. In my opinion then, act utilitarianism seems to have fundamental moral loopholes. Consider the incident where act utilitarianism would support going out for charity because it elicits happiness to a greater number of people than remaining in the house to watch television as a way of relieving oneself from pressures of work. It will seem that, act utilitarianism would deny individual persons their pleasure and instead give them an obligation to other people’s attainment of happiness. Although, it would be morally right to go out for such charity if remaining in the house to watch television was because of laziness and negligence. On the other hand, rule utilitarianism is the notion that the rightness of an act is determined, or judged by the badness or goodness of a rule’s consequences. A rule’s consequences are predicated on the fact that everyone ought to perform an act in similar circumstances. However, in this case, the rule in my opinion proposed by utilitarianism is rooted in the principle of utility and human happiness, abiding by a rule if and only if it is beneficial to the greatest number of people. In rule utilitarianism, it is essential to note that various actions are obligations. Simply, it is a duty for people to act in this way rather than the other way. For example, it is an obligation for people to speak the truth rather than lying. Then, if telling the truth is a general rule, lying would be contrary. Rule utilitarianism can be articulated from three angles: idealistic rule utilitarianism, actual-state rule utilitarianism, and conditional rule utilitarianism. In idealistic rule utilitarianism, an act is right only if it is accorded a given set of rules whose acceptance maximizes utility. In this case then, a person is not allowed to break a rule in whatsoever circumstances, taking into account that if all people followed the rule, there would be a maximization of utility. However, even though no one or few people abide by the rule, it is no excuse for anyone to break it. For example, the fact that not all people speak the truth does not guarantee anyone to speak lies. Further, anyone could agree that keeping promises or paying debts is an obligation required from anyone. Therefore, paying debts or keeping promises is a general rule that would maximize utility for everyone. In implication then, it is right for everyone to pay debts even if some people do not, and such represents the idea of rule utilitarianism. In actual-state rule utilitarianism an act is right by conforming to rules generally accepted to maximize utility and ones that are generally accepted by certain or relevant social groups. The subset of this section is rooted in members benefiting from the rule in a common consent within an enclave. For example, some drivers of a section of motor vehicles can agree to a rule such as giving way to the left at roundabouts. Equally, on conditional rule utilitarianism maximization of utility follows a utility maximizing rule. In contrast to act utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism seems to evade the issues raised regarding act utilitarianism. By proposing a moral rule, obligation, or some principle that is commonly accepted to be the basis for judging a morally correct action, rule utilitarianism avoids the problem of accepting all actions to be morally correct if they benefit the greatest number of people. It is not about the number of people this act can give happiness to, but rather whether the act is generally accepted as a moral rule by many people. For example, releasing Barnabas, a thief, instead of Jesus, a righteous person because, it would give happiness to the greatest number of people would seem morally correct for act utilitarianism. However, rule utilitarianism would judge an act whether it is in accordance with a moral rule, thereby requiring one to examine the morality of the acts of the two and how they are accepted in the moral rule. However, rule utilitarianism would agree with act utilitarianism if the community judges the act as good and a rule perversely though. For example, in Muslim, there is a general acceptance of Jihad. Many Muslims would acknowledge jihad and as a moral rule, and act utilitarianism will contend with Muslims if the act of jihad would elicit happiness for the greatest number of people, within the Arab world of course. In my opinion then, rule utilitarianism is more compelling although a moral rule should not be judged merely on the number of people who agree to it, but rather on logical precepts and the moral law. ORDER PLAGIARISM FREE PAPER


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