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John Stuart Mill’s Ethical System Analysis


The classical text Utilitarianism contains John Stuart Mill’s ethical theory in the most extensively articulated manner. Utilitarianism is the norm that something, such as an action, is considered to be right as long as it provides happiness and pleasure, while at the same time an action is considered wrong if it causes unhappiness or pain. Mill’s article serves to justify the principle centred on utilitarianism as the primary foundation of morals. Philosopher John Stuart has focused his attention on the consequences of an action and not on rights or ethical standards. Mill’s article majorly concerns the ideas of utilitarianism while at the same time it consists of two sections describing Mill’s views on justifying of punishment and freedom of the will. Mill was familiar with Utilitarianism by the age of sixteen when he grew to be a Utilitarian for the rest of his life and claimed to be the originator of the Utilitarian word in the English dictionary. Mill’s early contribution to his work commenced when he took interest in Bentham’s theory. Bentham’s sources are rejected by Mill on account that the articles state human beings are implacably driven by self-interest thoughts. Mill perceived that sympathy for another person and desire of perfection belongs to human nature. Mill believed that as the rules of society improve also do individuals themselves.

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According to Mill, morality is established on social rules. As the article Utilitarianism begins, Mill projects that moral judgment in the society sets the basis for rules the society should live by (CW 10, 206). The moral judgment implied by Mill is whether or not an action is morally good or bad. Mill also bases his perception on right and wrong on a development about how renowned influencers employ the term good and bad morals. Mill affirms that people acknowledge a certain act to be bad if they perceive that the action should be accorded punishment. According to Mill, wrong actions are those which cannot be suggested to a person for instance suggesting for one to cause themselves harm. As for what is right, Mill categorizes morality as one of the three sectors of the art of life (CW 8, 949) and governed by the principle of utility. According to Mill’s article, moral rules obtained from a field of action may rightfully compel a person to fulfil them. In contrary, fields of action where punishment exists for wrong behavior would not be appropriate. It is important to note that, Mill considers morality as a societal behavior and not self-governed by critical thinking. Mill disagrees with Kant’s philosophy that consideration of morals arbitrates the acts that consist of more reasons to be performed. Therefore, for Mill, an action can be considered to be right by an individual but the individual is not morally obligated to act. According to Mill, the obligations that govern our morals are as a result of the acceptable sections of the moral codes of society.

Personal Perspective

I strongly disagree with Mill that the right action is performed under the basis of moral rules in society and is right because it causes happiness and pleasure to others. It is acceptable to imply that human beings desire for pleasure as they respond happily after a deed or action is performed to their liking at the end (CW 10, 234). But at the same time, an individual may choose to perform an action that is right but not morally accepted since it does not provide any form of happiness or pleasure to others. The action may be due to self-interest as no one should be able to perform a task for the interest of others and ignore his or hers. For example, in a lifesaving situation, I believe that the saver is obliged to consider his or her interest over the victim’s if the situation might conclude with both of them dying. This might be considered as, self-interest motives by the principle around Utilitarianism. Personally, an action is also considered to be wrong if its sole aim is to benefit the society regardless of the condition of the doer where his or her happiness and pleasure are not considered.

Immoral Actions in Utilitarianism


Several individuals including philosophical adversaries of Mill object strongly to Utilitarianism on the ground that it permits human beings to perform actions that are viewed as immoral. Mill’s ethical theory supports Utilitarianism as something good despite being immoral. Take for instance a case involving murder. The world has many people who could be killed to eliminate individuals who cause no good to others, are physically cruel and cause moral suffering, and whose influence increases unhappiness to the society. Mill’s theory suggests that it would be a good act if such people were assassinated and the balance of significant consequences would be greatly in favor of Utilitarianism. This action of formal punishment against the immoral men reflects the central principles of Utilitarianism. The act of taking another’s life is ethically considered inappropriate. But according to Mill, it is acceptable if it’s for a good course.


Mill, John Stuart, the Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. (Gen. Ed. John M. Robson). 33 vols. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1963-91. Web.

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