UTILITARIANISM IN JOHN STUART mill (A CRITICAL APPRAISAL)
UTILITARIANISM IN JOHN STUART MILL (A CRITICAL APPRAISAL)
In the history of philosophy, it has been held that the ultimate objective of man is happiness, and that the only way to accomplish such a goal is to live a moral or virtuous life. Living a virtuous life entails demonstrating and practising morally correct behaviour.
As a result, man employs laws whose goal is to increase the whole happiness of the community as it legislates and protects the people.
The mere fact that certain activities and measures cause misery and pain does not imply that they are evil or bad. There are some behaviours that are not enjoyable but are ethically acceptable and right. Furthermore, there are some activities that are joyful but bad and sinful.
Furthermore, because of its simplicity and affirmation of the common notion that pleasure and happiness are what everyone craves, utilitarianism has captivated the imaginations of (generations) of men more than any other manner or system of thinking.
Thus, the pursuit of pleasure becomes the driving force behind all of man's acts.
Nonetheless, the focus of this paper is on a specific ethical theory and its solution to the core question of ethics: what is the yardstick for measuring an individual's moral activity; what is the moral standard of morality?
Until now, John Stuart Mill's moral philosophy has been attempted or advocated as a guide to individual acts. His doctrine had an impact on men's thinking and imagination since it reinforced what most of them already thought to be a general proposition.
J.S. Mill agreed with his father and Bentham in their opposition to William Paley's theological utilitarianism, ethical intuitionism, moral sense theory of ethics, and so on.
As previously said, each ethical theory has its own perspective on what makes an individual's actions right or wrong, good or terrible. There is no universal agreement on the content or standard norms of morality.
Mill, on the other hand, forbade any reference to purported rational intuition. Instead of respectful devotion to formal standards of conduct, he emphasised the effects of behaviour as the criterion for what is good.
He believed that utilitarianism provides these reasons by determining which laws, under certain conditions, contribute to happiness or pleasure and which lead to sadness and pain.
Thus, the extent to which a rule of conduct is conducive to happiness becomes the test of right and wrong activities, while pleasure and suffering become the test of right and wrong actions. As a moral theory, utilitarianism asserts and suggests that the morality of an act is primarily determined by its utility as a way of achieving man's happiness.
As a result, an act is good if it aids in the attainment of pleasure and the alleviation of pain. John Stuart Mill seeks to demonstrate that the highest happiness is the sole and final goal of man's actions.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
As people tend to reject the collective activities required in a society, there have been numerous conflicts, disagreements, and unbearable attitudes in matters of morality.
Indeed, since the beginning of philosophy, the subject of the “Summum Bonum” or “the yardstick for measuring the morality of human actions” has been seen as the central issue in speculative thought. As a result, numerous sects and schools engaged in ferocious conflict against one another.
The utilitarian principle is regarded as the fundamental standard of morality and the most dependable yardstick for distinguishing between good and bad activities.
The utility of an action as a way of achieving happiness or pleasure and alleviating pain determines its goodness (right) or badness (wrong).
Nonetheless, utilitarianism has been unable to address certain moral dilemmas such as rights and justice. Certain behaviours are morally justified in utilitarianism, but they violate people's rights and deprive them of justice.
This suggests that utilitarianism just considers how much utility is produced and ignores how that utility is obtained or dispersed among members of a society. Furthermore, determining the ethical validity of any decision becomes challenging.
As a result, utilitarianism appears to neglect certain crucial aspects of ethics because it embraces the notion that the proper behaviours in each scenario will create the greatest benefit(s). As a result, the end justifies the means, but this principle is unacceptably flawed.
THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY
Life in a society necessitates concerted activity. Simply said, everyone should have the same mindset in moral situations. We cannot survive, at least humanely, unless we have some sort of guidance to our lives.
There should be a justification for human activities to be carried out in light of their end(s), thus- Utilitarianism is a moral theory.
It is vital to highlight that the subject of ethics is human behaviour as it relates to moral rightness or wrongness. As a result, J.S Mill's theory of Utilitarianism acts as a social device for controlling, identifying, influencing, shaping, and redirecting other people's attitudes.
The objective of this principle (utilitarianism) should therefore be highlighted unequivocally as enabling human beings to live a good and moral existence.
We will therefore critically evaluate utilitarianism's theory and proposition in order to assist individuals in approaching moral challenges with an open mind and therefore constructing a better society.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
This study focuses on the utilitarian principle as articulated by John Stuart Mill. Other perspectives and points of view that evaluate utilitarianism, on the other hand, are encouraged.
This research work employs an explanatory technique. It also used analytical and evaluative forms to illustrate John Stuart Mill's concept for evaluating and justifying individual behaviours as good or bad, right or wrong.
DIVISION OF WORK
The basic introduction is followed by four chapters in this research effort. The general introduction provides a quick explanation of J.S Mill's utility thesis and influence, as well as methodological considerations for the full study work.
The first chapter focuses on the concept, meaning, and forms of utilitarianism, while the second part examines some related utilitarianism literature from the history of philosophy.
The third chapter focuses on J.S Mill's style of utilitarianism as well as the theory's susceptibility. The final chapter is devoted to critical analysis and conclusion. It delves deeper into the ramifications of Mill's utilitarian theory and the absolute happiness -God.
NATURE OF UTILITARIANISM
1.1 PRELIMINARY REMARK
The definitions of ‘good' in light of ethical theories posed perplexing problems about the orders, demands, objectives, and imperatives that comprise the principle of utility. Some of the definitions include:
The mandates of God, the dictates of reason, the accomplishment of human nature's objectives, the duty to obey the categorical imperative, and so on.
As a result, John Locke believes that what is likely to cause us pleasure is good, while what is likely to cause us misery is evil. In contrast, David Hume defines pleasure as sympathy. As a result, sympathy is the joy we feel when we think about the pleasure of others.
Jeremy Bentham, on the other hand, claimed that man is by nature a pleasure-seeking and pain-avoidant animal. These two conceptions (pleasure and pain), he claims, govern all we do, say, and think.
Utilitarianism is a moral philosophy that claims that man's highest good consists in the optimal realisation of the pleasures to which he is capable. It considers pleasures and happiness to be the ultimate goal of man. As a result, utility denotes happiness and pleasure, the determinant of morality.
As a result, the utilitarian principle approves or disapproves of any action that appears to have the potential to increase or decrease happiness. It therefore declares an activity to be good when the sum of pleasure exceeds the sum of pain.
1.2 WHAT EXACTLY IS UTILITARIANISM?
We cannot adequately comprehend utilitarianism unless we understand the values of the ideas of happiness and pleasure. Every writer who had maintained the theory of utility,
from Epicurus to Bentham, meant by it not something to be distinguished from pleasure, but pleasure itself along with exemption from pain; for utilitarian principle considers effects like pleasure, happiness, good, evil, and pain as they relate to human actions and behaviour.
It should be highlighted right away that those who advocate for utility as a litmus test for good and evil did not use the term in the narrow and just colloquial sense in which utility is opposed to pleasure.
Utility is synonymous with happiness and pleasure. Furthermore, the world and new generations have constructed and acquired their single understanding of the meaning of utilitarianism from the term's warped use and definition.
Utilitarianism is most commonly defined as the belief that “the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by the goodness or badness of its consequences.”
It can be presented as a normative ethics system (a recommendation for how we should think about conduct) or as a descriptive ethics system (an investigation of how we do think about conduct).
According to The Concise Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, utilitarianism is a philosophy of rightness in which welfare is the only good thing. Morality and utility are interchangeable for a utilitarian.
As such, utilitarianism can be characterised as an ethical theory that maintains that the morality of an act is primarily determined by its utility as a way of achieving man's enjoyment, which is usually considered temporary.
Utilitarianism is an ethical theory founded on the utility principle, sometimes known as the concept of the greatest benefit or happiness.
As a result, utility is seen as the true norm of morality and the most reliable measurement for separating good from bad activities, and hence as the yardstick by which good actions are distinguished from bad actions.
It follows that behaviours that cause or tend to produce pleasure are good, whereas actions that produce or tend to produce pain are bad.
Utilitarianism emphasised dominance over frivolity and momentary pleasure. If there is one pleasure (activity) to which practically all who have experienced both give a clear preference, regardless of any moral responsibility, it is regarded as the more desirable pleasure. John Stuart Mill defined utilitarianism in his work Utilitarianism:
The religion that embraces the greatest happiness principle as the foundation of morals maintains that activities are right in proportion to how they tend to promote happiness, and wrong in proportion to how they tend to generate the opposite of happiness.
Happiness is defined as pleasure and the lack of suffering, whereas sadness is defined as pain and the absence of pleasure.
The Greatest Happiness concept explains man's ultimate purpose as an existence free of pain and as abundant in happiness as possible in both quality and quantity. In relation to and for the benefit of all nice things.
Furthermore, the life theory on which this moral theory is based holds that pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable as ends and that all desirable things are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves or as means to promote pleasure and prevent pain.
The happiness (pleasure) with which utilitarianism is concerned is not the happiness (pleasure) with which egoism is concerned. Mill emphasised this point, stating that the happiness that serves as the Utilitarian standard for what is proper in behaviour is not the agent's.
As between an individual's own happiness and the happiness of others, utilitarianism compels him to be scrupulously impartial as a disinterested and kind spectator. As a result, he maintained:
For that standard is not the agent's greatest happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness overall; and, while it is debatable whether a noble character is always happier for its nobleness, there is no doubt that it makes other people happier and that the world as a whole benefits greatly from it.
As a result, people must always behave with the intention of furthering the broad interests of society. It is worth noting here that utilitarian morality corresponded with Jesus of Nazareth's golden rule, to do as you would like to be done by others and to love (your neighbour) as you love yourself. This invariably reads the entire spirit of utilitarian ethics.
As a means of getting the closest to its objectives, utility requires that laws and social systems place the happiness or interest of each individual in line with the interest of the entire.
This may be accomplished by using education as a vehicle to instill in the minds of all individuals an unbreakable link between individual happiness and the good of society; therefore the altruistic nature of utilitarianism.
Nonetheless, there is no ethical norm that determines if an action is good or bad, right or wrong, because such a judgement is made by a nice, amiable, brave, and generous man or not. Furthermore, proper behaviour does not always imply virtuous character.
Being a good doctor, for example, is not the same as being a decent person. A good doctor does not have to be a decent person. As a result, there is a distinction between professional perfection and the activities of the same individual as a person.
In the long term, however, excellent actions are the best proof of a good character. Utilitarianism could thus only be realised through the widespread cultivation of character nobleness.
1.3 DIFFERENT TYPES OF UTILITARIANISM
In this section, we will look at five different types of utilitarianism. However, each type of utilitarianism is related to another in such a way that knowing and knowledge of one serves as a foundation for understanding and knowledge of the other. They are as follows:
i. Action Utilitarianism
ii. Rule Utilitarianism.
iii. Individual Utilitarianism
iv. Social Utilitarianism
V. Egoistic Altruism
1.3.1 ACT UTILITARIANISM
Act utilitarianism is a significant kind of utilitarianism that maintains that the rightness or wrongness of an action should be determined only on the basis of the action's consequence(s). That is, the “after-effect” or result of an action defines the morality of the action in question.
As a result, activities that provide positive effects for the greatest number of people are deemed good, whereas actions that produce evil results, such as suffering and sadness, are considered terrible and wrong.
Furthermore, act-utilitarianism asserts that an action is right if it maximises utility for the greatest number of people; the morality of an action is determined by the consequences of the activity, according to this concept.
Act-utilitarianism is concerned with or focused on a specific individual's activity in order to appeal to the individual. As a result, the outcome of an individual's conduct becomes the moral standard.
As a result, if an action has the same effect on a lot of people, the action is morally good based on the total amount of pain or pleasure avoided.
This concept means that act-utilitarianism disregards the character of an action. Instead, it is based on the impact of such action on the individual: to determine whether an action is right or bad, the outcome or consequences of the activity are important.
It follows that as long as an activity produces the best potential consequences for the greatest number of people, it should be performed and carried out as a morally decent act. To put it another way, the aim justifies the means.
This is a prominent type of utilitarianism. In response to these critics, utilitarians provide rule-utilitarianism as an essential and intellectual alternative version of utilitarianism. The fundamental technique of rule-utilitarian analysis is to confine utilitarian analysis to the evaluation of moral rules.
This indicates that the ostensible determinant of a proper (moral) conduct is the question of whether the activity is required by the correct moral principles that everyone should follow.
As a result, if an action creates pleasure when used as a general guideline of conduct, it is considered ethically good, and vice versa.
According to rule-utilitarian, when determining if a particular action is ethical, one should never examine whether that action will yield the maximum amount of utility. Instead, one should consider if the activity is required by the moral principles that everyone should obey.
The fundamental inquiry in this dimension should be what the useful outcome of a moral norm would be if everyone adopted and followed it. Or what are the proper moral guidelines?
Such issues like the ones raised above should concern us. Indeed, the correct moral standards are those that would yield the most utility if everyone followed them, hence maximising utility.
Simply put, rule-utilitarianism is concerned with rules, and the correct conduct here is that which is consistent with those rules that, if adopted by everybody, will maximise utility.
Meanwhile, the fact that a given action will maximise utility on a specific occasion does not imply that the conduct is good or ethically correct. Instead, we need discover a valid moral rule that evaluates specific behaviours in the counter-examples in reference to the selected norms.
The utility principle must underpin moral rules. By this point, only the rules that will yield the best possible result for the greatest number of people if everyone follows them when they are accepted stand out as a benchmark for distinguishing good activities from bad actions. This rule-utilitarianism theory is summarised as follows:
a. An activity is right from an ethical standpoint if and only if it maximises benefit in relation to the moral principles that are regarded correct.
b. A moral rule is correct if and only if the overall utility produced if everyone followed that rule is greater than the total utility produced if everyone followed some other rule.
Finally, rule-utilitarianism considers the question: will everyone accepting and following this rule result in useful consequences? If the response is yes, the act becomes morally good; if the answer is no, the act becomes morally bad.
1.3.3 INDIVIDUAL UTILITARIANISM
Individual utilitarianism, often known as Egoistic Hedonism, is a type of utilitarianism. The word clearly describes the concept.
This kind of utilitarianism asserts that the end that each individual should seek is his own greatest personal enjoyment.
As a result, every activity that contributes to promote and raise each man's per se enjoyment is morally right and good, whereas activities that create the opposite of one's personal pleasure are morally terrible and wrong.
This school of thought likewise agreed that human pleasure is man's highest good. As a result, Jeremy Bentham believed that pleasure is the sole good that all men desire and pain is the one evil that all men attempt to avoid.
As a result, pain and pleasure regulate our actions in the following ways:
It is up to them to both point out what we should do and decide what we will do. The standard of right and wrong, on the one hand, and the chain of causes and effects, on the other, are attached to their throne.