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How Successful Was J.S. Mill In Overcoming The Problems Associated With Bentham's Utilitarianism?

1120 words - 4 pages

How successful was J.S. Mill in overcoming the problems associated with Bentham's Utilitarianism?"The greatest good for the greatest number" is a simple way to sum up a fairly simple idea. But despite its simplicity it still has lots of problems; in this essay I will be looking at how John Stuart Mill tries to overcome these problems.In 1789 utilitarianism was born, the brainchild of Jeremy Bentham. Bentham was a hedonist or someone who is constantly in pursuit of pleasure or happiness. It is around this idea of hedonism that Bentham founded a way of making moral and ethical decisions, he called it utilitarianism. Utilitarianism is a teleological theory that worked on that basis that you should do the "greatest good for the greatest number", in simpler terms means that if ever confronted with a moral dilemma you should always do what will cause the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people as a consequence of your choice. So you think through the consequences of your action, and work out how much pleasure it will cause then subtract the amount of pain it would cause. So for Bentham a good person would be one that maximised happiness and minimised pain caused.To help establish how good one action was in comparison to another, he created a tool called a hedonic calculus. The Hedonic Calculus was based around seven principles of pleasure:1.Intensity - The strength of the happiness created2.Duration - How long the happiness lasts3.Certainty or Uncertainty - How sure/unsure you are that the happiness will occur4.Propinquity or Remoteness - How close/far away the happiness is in time, with closer being better5.Fecundity - How likely the act is to cause more feelings of the same kind (pleasure/pain)6.Purity - The chances of the act being followed by feelings of the opposite kind.7.Extent - The amount of people that will be affectedI will now put the hedonic calculus into practise using the example of euthanasia:FactorHelp them dieDon't help them dieIntensity¡Ô The happiness created by ending the patients suffering will be far greater than their pain, if they continue to suffer when living.X Their pain of seeing a loved one unable to do anything is greater than the pain of letting them die, knowing they are no longer suffering.Duration¡Ô The pleasure of the patient who will no longer be suffering will be infinite.X The patients pain will last as long as their life does.Certainty¡Ô It is 100% certain that if the patient stopped living, their pain would end.X It's fairly certain that keeping them alive would keep the family happy to an extent.Propinquity¡Ô The pain of the patient would end instantly.X The happiness of pain ending with a natural death would take longer than euthanasia.FecundityX After any death people get sad, even if they are happy their pain and suffering has ended.¡Ô By keeping them alive, the family will be happy simply because they are alive.Purity¡Ô As...

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