Utilitarianism Answers to Questions

The maximization of happiness should never be taken in simplistic terms. It is not crude sensual pleasure that is the aim. Rather, welfare consists in the satisfaction of desire, and the relevant pleasure is the pleasure that comes from satisfied desire. According to Bentham, the maximization of happiness resides in mere quantity. As the quantity of goods is increased, happiness increases. For Mill, welfare consists in the experiencing of pleasurable states - that quality determines happiness. As he argued better Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. Mills conception of a hedonistic qualitative utility rests on three assumptions. First, satisfaction by quantity is saturating. As an individual consumes more goods, he becomes saturated (principle of diminishing utility). Second, utility can be derived from material and non-material goods. Lastly, satisfaction may be depended on the intrinsic value of experience. In short, it is possible for a state of pleasure to be pleasurable to other individuals (externality).

Now, how do we determine which sorts of pleasures are qualitatively higher than other forms of pleasures According to Mill, some experiences are qualitatively higher than others. In determining which line of action is better, this has to be part of the calculation. In general, pleasures are not sums of more elementary pleasures they are, in a sense, qualitatively different. Now, among the qualitatively superior pleasures are the so-called moral ends. These are the pleasures that people acquire the sense of having moral intuitions superior to self-interest. In short, a qualitatively superior pleasure is pleasure that has a moral end  an end which transcends beyond individual self-interest. As Mill argued, it is possible to be content with life even though dissatisfied, provided that one has the proper balance of pleasure. Now, the individual who has a good life has a reasonable sense of tranquility. Note that Mills argument is within the bound of utilitarianism  utilitarianism defined by quantitative and qualitative criteria. In short, Mill did not appeal to sources of value that take him beyond the confines of utilitarianism.

The Principle of Utility states that individuals are morally bound both to maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness either through each individual act that individuals perform or through the societal adoption and enforcement of rules of behavior which would maximize happiness and minimize unhappiness for the greatest number of individuals. In order to maximize happiness, individuals collectively develop rules. These rules with sanctions attached will function as means to the satisfaction of material desires, but through the associative mechanism. Now, because they concern the essential of individual well-being, they come to felt as more morally demanding than the principle of utility itself. In the process of evaluating social ends, the principle judges both individual action and normative standards. It is used as an operative decision procedure in evaluating social action. As Mill noted, the principle should not be used to judge individual action, except in two cases. First, individual action may be judged if two subsidiary rules are in conflict. Second, action may be judged if the sole purpose is to change the social structure of rules.

Mill is neither an act utilitarian nor a rule utilitarian. It is impossible to judge with absolute certainty the morality of a given act. It is also impossible judge with moral certainty the rules which govern human behavior because the principle is not a third-order principle. Suspension of particular rights to promote greater overall utility is a fallacy. Individuality and development can be best achieved under an atmosphere of freedom (under democracy). Representative government in particular is the best form of government which promotes individuality. It leads individuals to take a more active and intelligent participation in society. It provides moral training and encourages the development of natural human sympathies. The result is the habit of viewing at social questions from an impersonal perspective rather than that of self-interest. Note that this is a higher form of pleasure, according to the Utility Principle.


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