John Stuart Mill Lessons Essay

Excerpt from Essay :


The author of this report has been asked to answer a specific and thoughtful answer to a question about the greatest happiness principle and what it really means. Indeed, the question is how the principle is supposed to be useful and informative when it comes to guiding someone on what to do, what not to do and why. As the author expected, there is a strong correlation between this question and the general concept of utilitarianism. While the linkage and comparison of the greatest happiness principle and utilitarianism may make it easy to some to offer some explanations and insights, it just complicates things for others in some ways and the author of this response is certainly among that echelon.


Before getting into semantics and how the principle can or should be perceived, the author of this report will quote the man who came up with the principle being cited in this report, that being John Stewart Mill. His assertion was that "utility" and "greatest happiness" were one and the same. He asserted that the actions associated with either are the ones that "tend to promote happiness" and that the opposite are ones that "tend to produce the reverse of happiness." This was his "first formula" of the Greatest Happiness principle. The second formula of the principle was the idea that the Greatest Happiness Principle was the "existence exempt as far as possible from pain, and as rich as possible in enjoyments." However, there is a key qualifier and condition in the second formula and that is that happiness must be "secured to all mankind; and not to them only." In other words, happiness under the Principle must be realized and understood by all rather than just pleasure for one or only a few people. Of course, excluding the whole when it comes to pleasure is what many would term hedonism. While pleasure to only a few may not be seen as harm to the individual, there is not as much as happiness, in theory, as could or would be realized by the group as a whole (UTM).

Given all of that, the rules and guidelines that are useful in determining what one should or should not do are fairly straightforward. What should be done and why, basically, is based on how much good it brings to the whole. Indeed, if an action brings good or pleasure only to one person or a select few, that is generally not acceptable. This is especially true if there are other options that bring happiness to more people. For example, if there is a group of three hungry people and a limited pile of food for them to eat, one person getting to eat all they want brings good but only to one person. Allowing all three to share the food may not satiate all of them but it improves the outcomes for all three. As such, the latter would be the way to go. This is not to say that people should always be altruistic and completely non-selfish. There are situations where someone can enjoy themselves and have pleasure and have it not be at the expense of someone else. At the same time, there are ways to maximize the good…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Panera. "Day-End Dough-Nation." n.p., 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.

UTM. "Mill, John Stuart: Ethics -- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy." n.p., 2016. Web. 31 May 2016.

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