The greatest thinkers living in different periods of human history have always tried to understand the real nature of appropriate and inappropriate things that a person can do. Therefore, there is a range of theories that are devoted only to the ethical norms of modern society or make attempts to establish links between ethics and other spheres of life. “Utilitarianism” by John Stuart Mill belongs to the number of the most famous works focusing on the role of utility in the life of any society (Mill, 1863). The discussed work includes five chapters and each of them develops a particular topic.
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In the first chapter, the author provides general remarks related to the concept of utilitarianism. The entire theory provided by the author is based on the notion of utility – according to the concept of utilitarianism, only those actions and initiatives that bring the maximum utility to the majority of the involved parties can be regarded as good and ethical. In the first chapter of the discussed work, the author shares his opinion on the conclusions made by other famous thinkers. As it follows from his statements explaining the nature of the conflict between his values and opinions of other people, he disagrees with the key principles of Kantian ethics. In a radical departure from the latter, Mille supposes that morality is inextricably connected with the supreme goal of human life. By this goal, the author means the necessity of the physical and emotional pleasure that defines the degree of happiness in any community.
The next two chapters are devoted to the reflections and examples demonstrating the real nature of utilitarianism and the degree to which the principle of utility can be applied. The author defines happiness as a condition that involves no physical or emotional pain and the constant presence of pleasure. Nevertheless, he acknowledges that such a definition of happiness of an individual can be mistaken for the argument proving the necessity of egoism and unfair competition (Snow, 2015).
In fact, as is clear from many statements from the chapters, the principle of utility is at variance with the worldview based on egoism and the superiority of private interests because the maximum utility should be available for a large number of people. The pleasure and freedom from pain are regarded as the key goals that need to be achieved, and the author also reflects on the quality of pleasure. According to the author, pleasures can be different in terms of their quality, and the latter can be defined based on the specific factors including the opinion of society. Thus, speaking about the quality or the value of different pleasures, the author highlights that the majority opinion remains the ultimate factor indicating the degree of importance of various actions.
The remaining chapters of the essay are devoted to the arguments proving the importance of the principle of utilitarianism and the role of happiness in connection with justice. The most important method discussed in the fourth chapter is the use of the so-called moral intuition and the analysis of the key moral views. Obviously, such theories cannot be confirmed with the help of scientific evidence due to their subjective nature. Justice and utility are strictly interconnected because the nature of justice is based on the level of happiness for those individuals who need to be protected. More than that, social utilities can be called justice as well. Due to that strong connection between the concepts, the author believes that the principle of utility should be used in different spheres of life and any action should be analyzed only based on its consequences for different groups of people.
Mill, J. S. (1863). Utilitarianism. Web.
Snow, N. E. (Ed.). (2015). Cultivating virtue: Perspectives from philosophy, theology, and psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
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