An overview of john stuart mills classical utilitarian theory

Mill was raised in the tradition of Philosophical Radicalism, made famous by Jeremy Bentham —John Austin —and his father James Mill —which applied utilitarian principles in a self-conscious and systematic way to issues of institutional design and social reform. Utilitarianism assesses actions and institutions in terms of their effects on human happiness and enjoins us to perform actions and design institutions so that they promote—in one formulation, maximize—human happiness. As documented in his AutobiographyMill was groomed from birth by his father to become the ultimate Victorian intellectual and utilitarian reformer.

An overview of john stuart mills classical utilitarian theory

For its publication he brought old manuscripts into form and added some new material. Mill planned from the beginning a separate book publication, which came to light in One must not forget that since his first reading of Bentham in the winter ofthe time to which Mill dates his conversion to utilitarianism, forty years had passed.

Taken this way, Utilitarianism was anything but a philosophical accessory, and instead the programmatic text of a thinker who for decades had understood himself as a utilitarian and who was profoundly familiar with popular objections to the principle of utility in moral theory.

Almost ten years earlier Mill had defended utilitarianism against the intuitionistic philosopher William Whewell Whewell on Moral Philosophy. The priority of the text was to popularize the fundamental thoughts of utilitarianism within influential circles.

This goal explains the composition of the work. After some general introductory comments, the text defends utilitarianism from common criticisms "What Utilitarianism Is". After this Mill turns to the question concerning moral motivation "Of the Ultimate Sanction of the Principle of Utility".

What makes utilitarianism peculiar, according to Mill, is its hedonistic theory of the good CW 10, Utilitarians are, by definition, hedonists. For this reason, Mill sees no need to differentiate between the utilitarian and the hedonistic aspect of his moral theory.

Today we routinely differentiate between hedonism as a theory of the good and utilitarianism as a consequentialist theory of the right. Utilitarians are, for him, consequentialists who believe that pleasure is the only intrinsic value.

Mill counts as one of the great classics of utilitarian thought; but this moral theory deviates from what many contemporary philosophers consider core features of utilitarianism. This explains why the question whether Mill is a utilitarian is more serious than it may appear on first inspection see Coope One may respond that this problem results from an anachronistic understanding of utilitarianism, and that it disappears if one abstains from imputing modern philosophical concepts on a philosopher of the nineteenth century.

However, this response would oversimplify matters. As mentioned before, Mill maintains that hedonism is the differentia specifica of utilitarianism; if he were not a hedonist, he would be no utilitarian by his own definition.

His view of theory of life was monistic: There is one thing, and one thing only, that is intrinsically desirable, namely pleasure. In contrast to a form of hedonism that conceives pleasure as a homogeneous matter, Mill was convinced that some types of pleasure are more valuable than others in virtue of their inherent qualities.

Many philosophers hold that qualitative hedonism is no consistent position. Hedonism asserts that pleasure is the only intrinsic value. Under this assumption, the critics argue, there can be no evaluative basis for the distinction between higher and lower pleasures. Probably the first ones to raise this common objection were the British idealists F.

Which inherent qualities make one kind of pleasure better than another, according to Mill? These enjoyments make use of highly developed capacities, like judgment and empathy. This seems to be a surprising thing to say for a hedonist. However, Mill thought that we have a solid empirical basis for this view.

According to him, the best obtainable evidence for value claims consists in what all or almost all people judge as valuable across a vast variety of cases and cultures.

This partly explains why he put such great emphasis on education.Classical economics received some of its most important statements from utilitarian writers, especially David Ricardo and John Stuart Mill.

Ironically, its theory of economic value was framed primarily in terms of the cost of labour in production rather than in terms of the use value, or utility, of commodities. John Stuart Mill (–) was the most famous and influential British philosopher of the nineteenth century.

But in a letter to John Venn Mill claims that the moral status of an individual action depends on the utility of its consequences; For while it provides an indirect utilitarian theory of duty, the account it provides of when.

Utilitarianism study guide contains a biography of John Stuart Mill, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis. The beginning of the treatise is populated by clarifications and Mill's own revisions to utilitarian theory, designed so as to respond to objectors to utilitarianism while also.

In his second chapter, Mill discusses the definition of utilitarianism, and presents some misconceptions about the theory. The third chapter is a discussion about the ultimate sanctions (or rewards) that utilitarianism can offer. Some claim that John Gay developed the first systematic theory of utilitarian ethics.

Classical utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham Jeremy Bentham.

An overview of john stuart mills classical utilitarian theory

Mill's Principle of Utility: A Defense of John Stuart Mill's Notorious Proof. John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism, available in many editions and online, Smart’s discussion combines an overview of moral theory and a defense of act utilitarianism. It is followed by Bernard Williams’, “A Critique of Utilitarianism,” a source of many important criticisms of utilitarianism.

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