Module VII: Utilitarianism


John Stuart Mill

The "happiness principle": pleasure vs. pain


The greatest pleasure for utilitarians is peace, serenity

In modern popular usage, epicureanism implies a love or knowledgeable enjoyment of good food and drink


cost benefit analysis

"unprincipled" philosophy

Mill's position on "The Subjugation of Women"

 "the golden rule" p. 17, in other words, the heart of Christianity itself is utilitarian, according to Mill 

“Money”: Pink Floyd:

"Two Step" DMB:

DMB "Lie in our Graves

“Too Much” DMB

At this point, it is useful to think about Aristotle's idea of prudence: to be prudent, you must first recognize the principles involved.


1) it is a doctrine of "swine" (pp. 8-9) 


Answer: the higher pleasures are to be preferred the lower; e.g., see p. 14 "Next to want..." ff 

What is real, meaningful, and lasting pleasure?

2) it doesn't take into account, the problems of human nature (see. p. 25, 2nd para: "The remainder of the stock...")

3) Utilitarianism has no "ultimate sanction."

Mill's answer to this, in Chapter III is weak; he simply argues that, ultimately, morality is a matter of self-satisfaction, and as utilitarian is broadly accepted, the moral satisfaction of being a utilitarian will grow. 

This is a good juncture at which to contrast the question of sanctions between the various ethical theories.

What are the consequences of immoral behavior in the Aristotelian tradition? for Aquinas?

4) What about justice?

This is one of the more damning criticisms.

First note, Mill's definition of justice (pp. 44-45) which incorporates elements of Aristotle's thought 

Mill's answer: justice is useful, despite its inconveniences.. See especially pp. 59-64

A case study: What was Mill's position on capital punishment and why? pp. 65-71.