Utilitarianism and Happiness

945 WordsNov 13, 20054 Pages
Utilitarianism In his book, J.S. Mill attempts to build on Jeremy Bentham's original idea of Utilitarianism. His definition of the moral theory is one that is grounded in Bentham's original work but also extends to include remarks to criticisms of Utilitarianism. Mill believes that, like Bentham, utility is what is valuable to society. Utility, according to Mill, is the promotion of pleasure or the absence of pain. He defines this as happiness, which is why he refers to utility as the Greatest Happiness Principle (Mill 55). Thus, pleasure (or painlessness) is what society finds valuable. Because society finds happiness valuable, it must attempt to maximize total happiness. Mill describes that the presence of pleasure and the absence…show more content…
Furthermore, what is necessary to contemplate is not the utility of the action worth praising but the praise itself. This means that praise is it's own action and not a remark on a previous action. The idea that praising actions that one may not approve may not sit well with dissenters of utilitarianism immediately. One might find that immoral and wrong. However, in the case of a utilitarian, whose moral actions are based the fact that the overall happiness of society is valuable and one must do all they can to maximize it, one can see that if an action goes against your ideals, but can bring about the greatest happiness, one must, according to Utilitarianism, commit that action. For instance, in Smart's article, he tells of a story where the initial actions of a blacksmith incorrectly mounting a horseshoe led to the loss of the horse that led to the loss of a knight and ultimately the loss of the kingdom. The question here is who to blame? The knight? The blacksmith? The horse? In response, Smart said: "Whose was the responsibility? The act-utilitarian will quite consistently reply that the notion of the responsibility is a piece of metaphysical nonsense and should be replaced by ‘Whom would it be useful to blame?'" (Smart 54) Essentially, Utilitarianism states that who to blame does not matter because it does nothing to promote pleasure or demote pain. However, what does matter who could be blamed that would lead to more
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