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Utilitarianism. (1863). PHIL 102, UBC. Summer 2015. Christina Hendricks. Except . parts noted otherwise. , this presentation . is licensed . CC-BY 4.0. John Stuart Mill. (1806-1873, England). Mill “had a lifelong goal of reforming the world in the interest of human well-being” . ID: 482638Embed code:
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J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism (1863)
PHIL 102, UBCSummer 2015Christina Hendricks
Except parts noted otherwise, this presentation is licensed CC-BY 4.0Slide2
John Stuart Mill(1806-1873, England)
Mill “had a lifelong goal of reforming the world in the interest of human well-being”
When asking what is right/wrong morally, what to evaluate?
IntentionMotiveHabitual disposition to act in some ways
What kind of act is it?What was actually done?
What results from the action?Slide4
an act is morally right depends only on
(as opposed to the
nature of the act or anything that happens before the act).”
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on consequentialism:
all and only pleasure is intrinsically valuable and all and only pain is intrinsically
-- Internet Encycl. of Philo:
determine the moral value of consequences, and therefore of acts, by how much pleasure/pain producedSlide6
Some moral scenarios
A few different moral scenarios, to encourage you to think about what might be needed to say an action is morally right or wrong…Slide7
Utilitarianism, Chpt 1
“There ought either to be some one fundamental principle or law, at the root of all morality, or if there be several, there should be a determinate order of precedence among them…”
What is that principle, for Mill?Slide8
Simplified overview of Mill’s Utilitarianism
We can judge the moral value of actions by the degree of happiness they tend to produce for the sentient creatures involvedSlide9
Greatest Happiness Principle
“actions are [morally] right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, [morally] wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness” (2
is defined in terms of pleasure and reduction or absence of pain
Support for GHP (more in Chpt. IV)
“pleasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends” (2)Mill on the highest good (5)The “end of human action is necessarily also the standard of morality” (5)
Pleasure, reduction of pain
(self & others)Slide11
Pleasure as only intrinsic value (p. 2, & Chpt 4)
Use happiness, defined in terms of pleasure, to evaluate consequences of acts
Judge acts with Greatest Happiness Principle (GHP)
Actual consequences the act had?
What was intended as consequence?
Usual consequences for this kind of act?Slide12
Consequences for whom?
Sentient beings (5)Not the whole world for all actions (6)
Different kinds of pleasures
Mill distinguishes between different kinds of pleasures: what kinds, and why does he make this distinction?Slide14
How do we know pleasures differ in kind, not just quantity? (3-4)
Even if you could get the sensual pleasures nearly or fully satisfied, a life with the capacity for intellectual pleasures but with less of them would still be preferable.
Sensual only (pig and fool)
Sensual & intellectual (human & Socrates)Slide15
Role of motive
Motive doesn’t matter
to the morality of actions (6)
Still, we should try to get people to want to promote general happiness (5-6)Slide16
Do we have to calculate consequences each time we act?
No; we can use “
” from the “fundamental principle” (GHP) (9)
These are drawn from human experience of which kinds of actions tend to promote more/less pleasure & pain (8)Slide17
Pleasure as only intrinsic value
Use happiness, defined in terms of pleasure, to evaluate conseq. of acts
Greatest Happiness Principle (GHP)
Subordinate principles (moral rules) (8-9)
GHP used to determine subordinate rules, decide between them if they conflict re: an actionSlide18
Chpt V: Utilitarianism & Justice
Two questions addressed here:What differentiates justice from the rest of morality?
2. Would utilitarianism allow people to act unjustly if that would promote more happiness in a group overall?Slide19
Question 1: Moral categories
Morally obligatory/requiredWhat must be done
Morally permissible/optionalWhat can be done
Morally prohibitedWhat must not be done
praiseworthy but optionalSlide20
What promotes general happiness, andWhat people should be compelled to do or avoid (19)How decide what actions should be compelled?
What promotes happiness, but people should not be compelled to do or avoid (19)Though we can try to persuade Examples?
Duties of perfect obligation (20)Connected to one or more rights How determine what counts as a right?Justice/rights focus on security: “the most vital of all interests” (21)
Duties of imperfect obligation (20)Not connected to rightsExample: generosity
Rest of moralitySlide22
Must we maximize happiness?
For Mill, is it morally required to produce as much happiness as possible, in all actions?
No, according to other writings
See also p. 20Slide23
Refined way of defining acts as morally right/wrong
What produces general happiness (GHP)
What we should compel people to do or avoid
Would utilitarianism allow people to act unjustly if that would promote more happiness in a group overall
How would Mill respond, and why?Slide25
Are there exceptions to rules of justice?Yes and no… (22)Slide26
Act vs Rule utilitarianism
A distinction that didn’t exist when Mill was writing
moral value of acts judged by utility of consequences of those (kinds of) acts
moral value of acts judged by whether they follow rules; rules judged by utility of their consequences if generally accepted and/or followedSlide27
Principle of utility (e.g., Mill’s GHP)
Principle of utility (e.g., Mill’s GHP)
Rules with high acceptance and/or obedience utility
Where does Mill’s view fit?Slide28Slide29Slide30