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  1. Utilitarianism, Act and Rule | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. Utilitarianism Defined
  3. Quick links

The utility calculations are as clear, perhaps clearer, than in the original story.


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But it is only reasonable that Jim in this story should think it relevant that it is he who is going to die. To any individual, it matters not only how much happiness there is in the world, but who gets it. Back to top.

Why I Am Not a Utilitarian

Loading content We were unable to load the content. Contents Article Summary 1. Introduction and history. Conceptions of utility. Types of utilitarianism. Arguments for utilitarianism. Problems for utilitarianism. DOI: The distinction Mill wants to make between different types of pleasures -- those which, in virtue of being more deeply human, are more noble -- puts him in good company. This distinction is shared by many, many philosophers since the beginning of Western philosophical thought.

This intuition is held both by religiously minded thinkers, as well as secular thinkers -- the Stoics, for instance. For Plato, pleasure arising from living a virtuous life is better than pleasure arising from a scurrilous life. But this distinction provides some difficulties for Mill's own position -- it's a problem for any utilitarian.

Utilitarianism, Act and Rule | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What more is needed? The Insufficiency of Utility. For Mill, as we've just seen, it is ultimately unsatisfying to think that all pleasures are, morally speaking, equal. He is persuaded that some pleasures are better than others.

Utilitarianism Defined

This raises a difficult issue for any utilitarian:. By what criteria do you measure the relative goodness of different pleasures? Do you see the problem? One virtue of utilitarianism is that it provides a criterion, a way of measuring the goodness and badness of actions. Pleasure becomes the measure. Pleasure simply IS the way in which we can discern the difference between actions that are merely permissible and actions that are obligatory, and actions that are forbidden.

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Pleasure becomes the final yardstick. It has the final say. It is that by which to evaluate other things. But if Mill is right, then pleasure is no longer sufficient for this task; there has to be something else -- something by which to evaluate the pleasures themselves. In other words, Mill's distinction between the elevated and the base pleasures requires us or him to figure out some moral principle, or value that cannot be reduced to pleasure.

Utilitarianism: Crash Course Philosophy #36

This criticism points to a particular weakness in utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill adjusted the more hedonistic tendencies in Bentham's philosophy by emphasizing 1 It is not the quantity of pleasure, but the quality of happiness that is central to utilitarianism, 2 the calculus is unreasonable -- qualities cannot be quantified there is a distinction between 'higher' and 'lower' pleasures , and 3 utilitarianism refers to "the Greatest Happiness Principle" -- it seeks to promote the capability of achieving happiness higher pleasures for the most amount of people this is its "extent".

The former is called "act-utilitarianism" and the latter is called "rule-utilitarianism. The right act is then defined as the one which brings about the best results or the least amount of bad results.

Criticisms of this view point to the difficulty of attaining a full knowledge and certainly of the consequences of our actions. It is possible to justify immoral acts using AU: Suppose you could end a regional war by torturing children whose fathers are enemy soliders, thus revealing the hide outs of the fathers. Rule-utilitarianism -- The principle of utility is used to determine the validity of rules of conduct moral principles.