john stuart mill

John Stuart Mill and Utilitarianism
Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill philosophy - On Liberty
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John Stuart Mill
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  Along with Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill developed the nineteenth century English philosophy known as Utilitarianism, which was the contention that man should judge everything in life based upon its ability to promote the greatest individual happiness (Titus and Smith 122). While Bentham is acknowledged as the philosophy’s founder, it was John Stuart Mill who further qualified it through logic (Titus and Smith 124). He maintained that because human beings are imbued with a thought capacity, they are not merely satisfied with pleasures of the flesh. They aspire to achieve pleasure of the mind as well. Once man has ascended to this highest intellectual level, he desires to stay there, never descending to the lowly level of existence from which he began (Titus and Smith 124).

   People like Thomas Carlyle have declared that man can live just as well without happiness. John Stuart Mill acknowledges that while this may be true in theory, that men do not conduct their lives in total pursuit of happiness, they still need a gauge with which to measure morality. Happiness may not necessarily mean continuous rapture, for such intense experiences are momentary at best. Nevertheless, happiness to some may merely translate to being the avoidance of pain. After all, feeling nothing is certainly comparable to feelings of pain, isn’t it? In Utilitarianism, Mill noted, "Utility includes not solely the pursuit of happiness, but the prevention or mitigation of unhappiness" (Mill 11).

   Mill is ultimately successful in that he points out that contrary to popular belief, utilitarianism is not a completely selfish motivation which does not take into consideration the desires of others. Virtue, while not completely synonymous with happiness, is a component thereof, and is an attribute desirable to society as a whole. One who causes pain in others cannot be described as virtuous. In the final analysis, John Stuart Mill successfully proved his point by noting that happiness is not an all-inclusive term. It is comprised of many components and represents different things to different people. Whether man is dedicated to becoming a millionaire, famous, or living a virtuous and healthy life, he is merely exercising contrary means to the same end -- "pleasure and freedom from pain."

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