Utilitarianism and Aristotelian Ethics

1826 Words Apr 23rd, 2008 8 Pages
Utilitarianism and Aristotelian Ethics John Stuart Mill and Aristotle are two of the most notable philosophers in history to date. Between Mill’s Utilitarianism and Aristotle’s virtue ethics you can see a large portion our cultures ethics today. Their philosophies are apparent in contemporary everyday life. Aristotle has written several pieces on virtue and friendship. The two most notable works being the Magna Moralia and the Eudemian Ethics. However, his Nicomachean Ethics were by far the most notable thing written from Aristotle’s teachings. His Nicomachean Ethics are made up of ten books, which are a combination of Aristotle’s lecture notes and his students’ notes from the Lyceum. Mill has written a number of works also, …show more content…
For example, a firefighter finds great pleasure in rescuing people from fires, but he often incurs injury due to the conditions of fire. It seems that his pleasure is more important than his pain and that the first is not always possible without the second. Additionally, it is reasonable that the firefighter would not live a fulfilling, complete, happy life if he were not a firefighter. It is plausible to say that in order to achieve pleasure in this life that one must endure pain also.
It seems that pleasure is not merely the absence of pain, but more importantly, the way in which one experiences it. Pleasure is an important component to happiness, but it is not, according to the utilitarian would say, all that encompasses happiness. Mill is correct to say that certain pleasures are better or more fulfilling than others. Evil pleasures such as masochism do not lend themselves to the happiness one thinks they are receiving, because they violate another large component of happiness…virtuous living.
It is rash to suggest that living virtuously and living happily are independent of one another…they must unite. Aristotle’s notion of happiness or eudemonia hinges on the idea of mental astuteness, specifically defined as, “the good of man is activity of the soul in accordance with excellence.” (Glassen) Aristotle believed in two types of human flourishing: practical moral excellences through virtue and contemplative,