|Mill rectify weaknesses in Benthams Utilitarianism
Author: Like-In-My-Dream PM
ETHICS -- EXPLANATION question -- How does Mill try to rectify weaknesses in Bentham’s form of utilitarianism -- An Essay that i wrote for my A-Level Ethics class -- I recieved an A for this piece.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 831 - Reviews: 1 - Published: 01-26-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2627051
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I figure that everyone wants help with their school work sometimes, as do I, so I decided to post some of my essays that I have written in the past for my philosophy and ethics course that I got full marks on.
PLEASE DO NOT coppy this word for word as that would be plagerism, but I have found that looking back over these past essays and summarising the main points was very useful when it came to revision of all the arguments.
The essay question you are working on will most likely not be this exact question so copying it exactly will not help in the slightest except to make you look like an idiot.
Hope this is useful to all you aspiring philosophers out there :)
How does Mill try to rectify the weaknesses of Bentham's simpler form of utilitarianism?
Mill shares many of Bentham's beliefs, mill's 'greatest happiness' principle for example is: "actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness"which is the basis of utilitarianism. Both philosophers were interested in creating the greatest aggregate happiness, an example of this would be that it would be better to make a small amount of people extremely happy than a much larger group of people only slightly happier, as long as the sum of happiness in the first case is larger than the sum in the second. Where Mill's theory strays away from Bentham's, is that he gives a more in-depth and detailed account of the values of certain kinds of happiness in comparison to others. Mill believed that there were qualitatively different sorts of pleasures – higher and lower pleasures – Bentham on the other hand treats all pleasures as the same. Mill built on the foundations of Bentham's theory of act utilitarianism, but developed his own version which was much more detailed, called rule utilitarianism.
A weakness of the simpler version of utilitarianism put forward by Bentham is that he does not give any regard to the way that a pleasure may be produced; Bentham famously declared that a pub game is as worthwhile as poetry as long as the amount of resultant pleasure is the same. Mill rectifies this weakness and answered the criticisms that spoke of utilitarianism as a doctrine only suitable for swine. By introducing his distinction between the levels of pleasure – higher and lower. In Mill's own words he says that: "it is better to be a dissatisfied human being than a satisfied pig." Human beings are capable of intellectual pleasures as well as the physical, whereas pigs have only the physical pleasures. Mill argues that these intellectual pleasures are to be valued as a more important happiness than physical happiness, he says that anyone that has experienced both will undoubtedly prefer the intellectual pleasure to the physical, and, even though some people who have experienced both still chose the physical, Mill contests that this is because they are lured by the prospect of immediate pleasure rather than the more gratifying intellectual long-term pleasure.
Out of Bentham's initial 'act' utilitarianism, you could argue that there are loop-holes that allow you to do selfish things under the premise of maximising happiness, because there is no distinction of higher and lower pleasures, an extreme example of this would be: A man murders his rich, but miserable, father and donates the money to an organisation that helps poor children. Under act utilitarianism, this would be perfectly justified; however, rule utilitarianism (which is Mill's modified version stating that we should act with certain guidelines and rules that society follows in mind) establishes this act as bad, because the father's life is intrinsically good; so you harm him if you take his life. The 'pluralistic' approach that Mill introduces in his version of utilitarianism, as opposed to the purely hedonistic approach of Bentham's, helps us to avoid these situations. Mill's new ideas about intrinsic goodness were very different to Bentham's. Bentham had simply accepted that happiness is good and the lack of, is bad, but this runs into problems when you thing of pleasure coming from the misfortune of others – is this good or bad? In answer, Mill states that good and bad are not intrinsically good in themselves, but certain things like life should be protected because it is always good 'in itself'.
With this firm basis of laws, rule utalitarians are less likely to fall into the trap of talking themselves into doing something foolish for the sake of good results, because following rules, on the whole, has a better chance of yielding better happiness for the most amount of people. Rule utilitarianism also addresses many of the problems in Bentham's theory and makes it less open to criticism as it encourages law and order within a society which may otherwise break down under the simple laws that Bentham initiated.