John Stuart Mill - Philosophy Pages

People go to any means by which to obtain the many varied materials and issues that induce pleasures in each individual, and intrinsically, this emotion remains the ultimate goal, John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth century philosopher, correctly advocated the pursuit of happiness, and maintained the concept that above all other values, pleasure existed as the final destination, Mill's hedonistic views correctly and rationally identified a natural human tendency, and his Utilitarian arguments strongly support the theory that above all else, happiness is the most important dream to be fulfilled....

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Lewis was a man of Mill’s own age, equipped with similar precocious erudition, and of utilitarian sympathies. His book dealt with the relation of logic to politics, a topic in which Mill was then too deeply interested to treat casually. Two years later he confessed to Carlyle that his review was an outgrowth from his own mind and the truest he had ever written—that is, it was no mere product of an orthodox utilitarian schooling. He commended Lewis’s attempt to bring a lucid logic into the language of politics, since slovenly thinking and equivocal words were together the bane of political discussion. But he took strong exception to certain points, of which the most important concerned rights. Lewis, following his teacher John Austin, argued that all rights are creations of law and the will of the sovereign. To call anything a right which is not enforceable in the courts is an abuse of language. In contrast Mill emphasized the reality of moral rights. He contended that, in saying that no man has a moral right to think as he pleases, for he ought to inform himself and think justly, Dr. Johnson refers to a right Lewis evidently fails to comprehend. Yet for Mill a right in the Johnsonian sense is no abuse of terms; it is good logic and good English. Rights are the correlatives of obligations and duties, and moral as well as legal rights have a necessary and significant place in the contemporary state. It is a moral right of subjects to be well-governed and a moral duty of the sovereign to govern well. The focus of this criticism is the mischief inherent in unduly simplified and inflexible concepts. Mill reacts here against the rigidity of some utilitarian logicians. His further complaint concerned the apparent and unjustified contempt with which Lewis disposed of Locke and Rousseau for assuming an unhistorical and fictitious state of nature and a social contract. Mill believed that it was inconsequential whether anything like a state of nature existed. The real issue was the extent to which as an hypothesis it shed light on the fact of a morality outside the law to which men could appeal. To Mill as to Locke such morality was important. Independent states in relations with one another remained in a state of nature, without a common superior, but responsive to moral obligations and duties. However unskilfully formulated, the old theories of the social contract and the inalienable rights of man in Mill’s opinion had a rightful place in the evolution of political liberty and justice by indicating a pragmatic limit on the power of the sovereign. He concluded his review of Lewis’s book by emphasizing the necessity of recognizing, despite all the linguistic differences, the close relationship between ideas of different political thinkers, and also the possibility of combining them into a whole.


Utilitarianism Quotes and Analysis | GradeSaver

Utilitarianism study guide contains a biography of John Stuart Mill, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

Since it was first articulated in the late 19th Century by the likes of Jeremy Bentham and later John Stewart Mill, the classical approach to utilitarianism has since become the basis for many other consequentialist theories such as rule-utilitarianism and act-utilitarianism upon which this essay will focus (Driver,...


John Stuart Mill – Philosophy Pages

Whether Mill's claims about the importance of secondary principlesimply rule utilitarianism depends, in part, on whether he wants todefine right action in terms of the best set of secondary principles orwhether they are just a reliable way of doing what is in fact best. Ifhe defines right action in terms of conformity with principles withoptimal acceptance value, then he is a rule utilitarian. But if theright action is the best action, and secondary principles are just areliable (though imperfect) way of identifying what is best, then Millis an act utilitarian. Mill appears to address this issue in twoplaces. In Chapter II of Utilitarianism Mill appears tosuggest that in the case of abstinences or taboos the ground of theobligation in particular cases is the beneficial character of the tabooconsidered as a class (II 19). But in a letter to John Venn Mill claimsthat the moral status of an individual action depends on the utility ofits consequences; considerations about the utility of a general classof actions are just defeasible evidence about what is true inparticular cases (CW XVII: 1881). Unfortunately, naturalreadings of the two passages point in opposite directions on thisissue, and each passage admits of alternative readings.

John stuart mill essay questions

If this is the right way to understand Mill's proof, then hisjustification of utilitarianism consists in assuming that the moralpoint of view is impartial and claiming that utilitarianism is theright way to understand impartiality. Morality is impartial, andimpartiality requires taking everyone's interests intoaccount—and not just those of some select few—and weighingthem equally—and not with a thumb in the scales for some selectfew. Indeed, later, in Chapter V, Mill identifies impartiality and itsprogressive demands with both justice and morality.