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Utilitarianism Is Usually Connected With The Specific Doctrines Of Jeremy Bentham And John Stuart Mill.

1665 words - 7 pages

Utilitarianism is usually connected with the specific doctrines of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, who both took the goodness of consequences to be measured by their effect on the happiness of human beings. Bentham was both the founder of utilitarianism and a contemporary of Mill's father, who ensured that his son received a strict utilitarian education based upon Bentham's theories . It is not surprising, then, that aspects of Mill's views on utilitarianism share fundamental similarities with those of Bentham, and also demonstrate a digression from Bentham's earlier perspectives to the further developed and more persuasive arguments characterised by Mill's Utilitarianism.A point of similarity can be drawn between the doctrines of Bentham and Mill in that both philosophers maintain the existence of external sanctions of morality . Bentham contends that our actions are influenced by their anticipated consequences, which occur independently of the human will. These essentially external sanctions exist in the form of penal establishments, the responses given by our peers to our actions, and by God's reaction to our doings in both mortal and immortal life . Likewise, Mill acknowledges that these external sanctions exist within "...the hope of favour and the fear of displeasure, from our fellow-creatures or from the Ruler of the Universe." However, a point of contention does exist between the two philosophers, as Mill holds that the primary influence over our actions lies within internal sanctions, namely "...the conscientious feelings of mankind."Bentham and Mill reach consensus in the assertion that it is only what we, as humans, have experienced that can be deemed as a valuable end. Our experience with pleasure affords us the ability to recognise it as inherently valuable . Although it is indefinable, pleasure, as a state of feeling, is the only thing that is desirable for its own sake and everything else is to be sought solely as a means to this end . This empirical view was introduced by Bentham and further endorsed by Mill's Utilitarianism, although Mill does digress somewhat from Bentham's notion of pleasure in his qualitative definition of the term.Mill's "proof of the principle of utility" augments Bentham's assertion that pleasure is the ultimate end, and draws an additional point of similarity between the two. The first step of Mill's argument is to affirm Bentham's principle of psychological hedonism, namely that "pleasure, or happiness, is the only thing that men desire for its own sake." Mill's second thesis is a principle of subjective ethical hedonism, that "each man's pleasure is a good to him." Mill's final assertion that "the general happiness is good for all" is a derivation of the principle of objective ethical hedonism and exhibits a final link between his doctrine and Bentham's hedonism . While Mill and Bentham both endorse this contention, it is the classification of "pleasure" that accommodates fundamental differences...

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