John Stuart Mill And The Utilitarian Tradition

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John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was a nineteenth century British philosopher whom tacked issues such as epistemology, economics, social and political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, religion and current affairs. His greatest philosophical influence is in moral and political philosophy, most notably his articulation and defense of utilitarianism and liberalism. Mills most significant innovations to the utilitarian tradition concern his claims about the nature of happiness and the role of happiness in human motivation. As he understood it, happiness was interconnected with pleasure, and he believed that the ultimate aim of each person is the promotion of one’s own happiness. Mill was a utilitarian and made many innovations to the concept. Utilitarianism assesses actions and institutions in terms of their effects on human happiness, which tells us to perform actions to maximize human happiness. Utilitarianism asseses the rightness or wrongness of an action by considering only the consequences of that action. Mill argued that happiness is something we desire intrinsically, and that it is the only thing that we intrinsically desire or value. Mill contends that we do not always value things as a means or instruments to happiness. We do sometimes seem to value things for their own sake because we are actually valuing them as parts of happiness. As opposed to intrinsically desirable on their own as a means to happiness. In Mills writings on utility he responds to or “corrects”
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