Utilitarianism, By John Stuart Mill

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John Stuart Mill, among other things, was an English philosopher and economist who lived from 1806 to 1873. Mill grew up being immersed in the principles of utilitarianism. Mill’s essay on utilitarianism, titled Utilitarianism, was written to debunk misconceptions of and to provide support for the ideology. Mill’s essay and argument span five chapters, where his discussions range from definitions, misconceptions, rewards, methods, and validity. Utilitarianism is generally held to be the view that the “morally right action is the action that produces the most good” (Driver). Mill believed that, as humans, we have an obligation to perform the action that achieves the best or most positive result or outcome. The best consequence in the experiment, according to Mill, would be to save as many lives as possible, and that would entail Jim killing the one Indian in order to save the rest of the Indians. Saving as many lives as possible, although having to sacrifice one life, would be the best consequence because it is “considered the absolute good” (Shakil). For this reason, Mill would advise Jim to kill the one Indian. Killing one in order to save the lives of many others is the best outcome out of all the choices. One proponent of utilitarianism is consequentialism. Consequentialism is the notion that whether an action is morally right or wrong depends “entirely on its consequences. An action is right if it brings about the best outcome of the choices available” (Utilitarianism).
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