()Although a retributive sentiment in favor of punishing wrong-doers may also be supposed to contribute to the traditional concept of justice, Mill insisted that the appropriately limited use of external sanctions on utilitarian grounds better accords with a legitimate respect for the general welfare.
Utilitarianism was developed in the 18th century by Hutchenson, who used the phrase “the greatest good for the greatest number” to describe his theory. The promotion of happiness, however, can be found much earlier in history, in the works of Aristotle, in the Bible, in the teachings of Buddha, in the works of Confucius and elsewhere. Hutchenson’s idea of Utilitarianism, however, seeks to find a rational means of assessing how best to put this promotion of happiness into practice, and is split into two types; Act Utilitarianism is the earliest form, in which what is deemed right is based on the assessment of results of a particular action, and Rule Utilitarianism, which allows to be taken into account the general benefit to society that occurs when people follow general rules.
Jeremy B. and John S. Mill argue that this is the theory for morality and economics. However, there are different types of utilitarianism but am going to focus on Mill’s argument on utility.
Utilitarianism has been describes in different ways. Most of them have been accepted and are used to explain it. According to mills, “Utilitarianism comes from the word utility, or the existence of pleasure, that is- the absence of pain, as both the basis of everything that people desire, and as the foundation of morality.” He further argued that utilitarianism does not simply allow happiness to come to people by any moral standards! Utilitarianism for a layman is the greatest good for the greatest number.
Does the end justify the means? Mill argues that the most moral action is always the one that results in the “greatest happiness for the greatest number.” Watch Macat’s short video for a great introduction to John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, one of the most important moral philosophy books ever written.
Utility is the being important and useful or simply the usefulness of something. Mill defines it as the common good in societal welfare. He argues that one must act in order to produce the greatest happiness for the majority. This was his major contribution to utilitarianism. Two scholars however argue it out differently in the different forms of utility. According to Mill, the internal pleasures are more superior to physical. On the other hand, unlike Mill-Bentham treats both the internal and physical pleasures as being equal. He justifies himself that happiness is of more value than contentment.
In general, Utilitarianism is weak as it is difficult to predict consequences, as the theory disregards motivation and goodwill, as it suggests that the majority is always right which causes issues when the Nazis are the majority, and it does not protect the minorities. In general the single criterion for morality is far too simplistic to deal with the complexity of life.
On the other hand, Mill’s Utilitarianism is often linked to Rule Utilitarianism, and the belief that rules should be formed using Utilitarian principles for the benefit of the whole society. This itself has weaknesses. For example, similar to Bentham, it is difficult to predict the consequences of every action that could occur. Also, there is a difficulty in defining what constitutes happiness as this would differ depending on who you asked. Once again, there is no defence for the minorities.
Bentham’s Utilitarianism is a type of Act Utilitarianism. It is a teleological, relative and consequential argument that uses the outcomes of an action to assess whether it is right or wrong and thus there are no necessary moral rules except one; that we should always seek to achieve the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. For this type of Utilitarianism, it is difficult to predict the consequences as there is a potential to justify any act, defining pleasure itself is subjective to the person who is asked, there is no defence for the minorities and it is impractical to suggest that we should calculate the morality of each choice that every single person on the world ever makes.
For one to have attitudes of malice, every citizen will have the value of self over another. “Society, therefore, is in no way obligated to indulge him; on the contrary, it is fully permitted to suppress his actions.” Maclene (1993). Mill’s argument on utilitarianism is purely qualitative and not quantitative. The qualitative aspects that Mill accepts on account of happiness is presented in On liberty. He argues that, utility or the usefulness of a being is acquired as one develops till maturity. “The rejection of censorship and paternalism is intended to provide the necessary social conditions for the achievement of knowledge and the greatest ability for the greatest number to develop and exercise their deliberative and rational capacities.” Lyons (1994).
Utilitarianism may not necessarily result in happiness as happiness is a personal choice. Something that makes one person happy may not make another happy. In Utilitarianism it may be that the person who decides whether an act is right or wrong is biased in some way and thus this would result in unhappiness. The act of deciding the right- or wrongness of an act is in itself an act and somebody must therefore decide if the decision to make an act right is right and thus a circular argument is created. However, there are different weaknesses for Bentham and Mill’s separate theories.
Mill gives different responses toutilitarianism. He says that it is a critique and not unique. Basing morality on the general good beats logic for commonsense situations. But again basin it on morality of the good, appreciation of the individual fails. This should give the best reason to argue that morality should be a personal issue. He says that we should sacrifice happiness if it will only yield better happiness. Some ambiguity comes out that utilitarianism is the basic and core foundation of morality!