Critical Analysis Of Mill's Pig Thesis

Better Essays
A Critical Analysis of Mill’s “Pig Thesis” John Stuart Mill published his seminal essay Utilitarianism in 1863. In this essay he builds on the work of his predecessor Jeremy Bentham, who sought to create a scientific approach to ethics, and responds to common criticisms of Bentham’s philosophy. Mill retains the core of Bentham’s Utilitarian philosophy, the Greatest Happiness Principle, but differs from Bentham’s position that pleasure is homogenous and that good actions seek only to produce greater quantities of pleasure, i.e. Quantitative Utilitarianism. Mill asserts that qua our uniquely higher faculties, human beings are capable of, and require, activities which produce qualitatively different pleasures than other animals, i.e.…show more content…
However, in his formulation of Utilitarianism Bentham sees pleasure as a homogenous good, varying only in terms of quantity. The pithy formulation of this idea is found in Bentham’s Rationale of Reward where he contends that “Prejudice apart, the game of push-pins is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry” (Bentham, 206). Bentham’s lack of distinction between pleasures leads to the criticisms of his philosophy as hedonistic and fit only for swine. It is in response to these charges that Mill introduces the concept of qualitatively different pleasures. Keeping the underlying structure of Utilitarianism, with the Greatest Happiness Principle as its prime axiom, Mill diverges significantly from Bentham’s view of pleasure as essentially uniform. Mill introduces the notion that pleasures can differ in terms of quality, saying that “it would be absurd that while, in estimating all other things, quality is considered as well as quantity, the estimation of pleasures should be supposed to depend on quantity alone”. This insight is based primarily on Mill’s assertion that “Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal appetites” and that due to this fact we require pleasures of a higher quality to attain happiness. It is important to note however, that Mill does not see human beings as fundamentally different in kind from animals, such that his contention is not based on a conception of human
    Get Access