Comparing The Utility Of Bentham And Mill

2032 words - 8 pages

Comparing the Utility of Bentham and Mill


\U*til"i*ty\, n. [OE. utilite, F. utilit['e], L. utilitas, fr. utilis useful. See Utile.] …

3. Happiness; the greatest good, or happiness, of the greatest number, -- the foundation of utilitarianism. --J. S. Mill.

Syn: Usefulness; advantageous; benefit; profit; avail; service. (

One of the major players in ethical theories has long been the concept of utilitarianism. Utilitarianism states that in general the ethical rightness or wrongness of an action is directly related to the utility of that action. Utility is more specifically defined as a measure of the goodness or badness of the consequences of an action (see quote by Mill above). For the purposes of this paper, Utility will be considered to be the tendency to produce happiness. There are two types of Utilitarianism; these are “act” and “rule”. An act utilitarian uses thought processes associated with utilitarianism (i.e. the principle of utility) to make all decisions, this requires a lot of thought and careful calculation. For example, an act utilitarian deciding from a list of possible day trips would sit down and calculate out the utility of each possible decision before coming to a conclusion as to which one was preferable. Contrary to an act utilitarian, a rule utilitarian uses the principles of utility to create a set of rules by which they live. Rule utilitarians are not incapable of calculating a decision; they just do not see a need to do it all the time. For example, a rule utilitarian might have some rules like this: in general do not kill, in general do not steal, in general do not lie; but if they found a situation that might except the rule they would do the calculations due to it and make a decision based on that. Perhaps the two greatest proponents of utilitarianism as an ethical theory were Bentham and John Stuart Mill (heretofore referred to as Mill). Though the terms act and rule utility came after the time of Bentham and Mill, it can still be noted that Bentham was clearly an act utilitarian and the Mill was a rule utilitarian. This paper will cover two subjects of discussion related to utility, Bentham, and Mill. The first is a consideration of the way in which Bentham goes about reconciling the ethical hedonist he promotes with the psychological egoistic hedonism he endorses. The second is really three smaller issues: the way Bentham and Mill would direct us to apply the principle of utility, how this is comparable to the employment of the hedonistic calculus, and the possibility that the differences in their views may make us come to different moral decisions.

II. There are four distinguishable sources from which pleasure and pain are in use to flow: considered separately, they may be termed the physical, the political, the moral, and the religious:…(Bentham, 382)

Bentham promotes ethical hedonism in some of his writings. Ethical...

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