John Stuart Mill
(1) Mill wants to adopt the standards of evidence which have led to progress in the sciences so he believes that appeal to experience are the way to support claims about ethics. In this respect Mill is in the tradition of Hume
(2) Parallels between. natural and moral philosophy in Mill: Claims about knowledge (wht we ought to believe) are justified by appeals to observational facts which rest on perception. Perception is what is given in experience. Claims about ethics (what we ought to do) are justified by appeals to facts about utility (happiness) which are based on what people desire for its own sake. What people do desire is what is given in experience. In both natural and moral philosophy claims must be justified by appeals to experience.
I General Remarks
Mill's discussion of the Categorical Imperative (P.4) There is no contradiction, neither a logical nor a physical impossibility, in the adoption of "outrageously immoral rules of conduct" It is only the consequences of such actions which justify the rational choice not to adopt such rules.
II What Utilitarianism Is
THE PRINCIPLE OF UTILITY: "Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness."
"By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain (P.7)
Pleasures differ in intensity, duration, and most importantly for Mill in kind:
Mill appeals to empirical evidence to support his claim that human pleasures include not only pysical pleasures but also the pleasures of the intellect, feelings, imagination and the moral sentiments.
Human beings have faculties which enable them to experience these higher pleasures.
Mental pleasures are intrinsically superior to physical pleasures, as well as circumstantially. The evidence Mill appeals to in support of his claim that there are different kinds of pleasures and that some are superior to others is the experience of mankind. Those who are acquainted with both sorts of pleasures do prefer the higher pleasures. (P.10)
The higher pleasures are desirable on utilitarian grounds even if it could be shown that they do not (always) lead to the greater happiness of the one experiencing them on the grounds that they make the world in general happier. (Here Mill is appealing to that version of the Principle of Utility which states that criterion of action is "the greatest good for the greatest number."
The main constitutents of a satisfied life: (1) Tranquility "With much tranquility,many find that they can be content with very little pleasure; " (2) Excitment "With much excitment, many can reconcile themselves to a considerable quantity of pain. A moderate amount of both is desirable.(P.13)
Concern for others : "...those who leave after them objects of person affection, and especially those who have also cultivated a fellow-feeling with the collective interests of mankind retain as lively as interest in life...." (p.13)
A cultivated mind "...finds sources of inexhaustible interest in all that surrounds it: in the objects ofnature, the achievements of art, the imaginations of poetry, the incidents of history, the ways of mankind, past and present....(P.14)
The principle of utility is concerned with the happiness of all concerned (those affected by an action). "As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator" (P.16) This is MIll's basis for claiming that the Golden Rule is an example of the ethics of utility.
A criticism of Utilitarianism "They say it is exacting too much to require that people shall always act from the inducement of promoting the general interest of society" Mill's response is that this criticism confuses the standard of morals with the motive. "No system of ethics requires that the sole motive of all we do shall be a feeling of duty" Motives have ...nothing to do with the morality of the action though much with the worth of the agent." (P.18)
Mill's initial statement of the Principle of Utility (P.7) is in terms of the rightness or ACTIONS; this version has come to be called ACT UTILITARIANISM. but Mill's defense of the duty to tell the truth uses a version of utilitarianism which appeals to the usefulness of rules. The rule that one ought to tell truth has so much utility that it ought not to be overridden for one specific case . Here Mill is thinking of utility as applying to rules - this is called RULE UTILITARIANISM. Mill admits of exceptions to rules: "Yet that even this rule, sacred, as it is, admits of possible exceptions is acknowledged by all moralists...." (P.22) [even Kant?]
III On The Ultimate Sanction Of The Principle Of Utility
What is the motive for obeying the (generalized version of) the principle of utility; what is the source of its obligation or its binding force. Mill recognizes external motives for obeying the principle - avoiding punishment and achieving the esteem of others. According to Mill the internal motive of duty is "a feeling in ourown minds." (P.28)
Moral feeling , the feeling that moral obligations are necessary, rests on a powerful natural sentiment. The foundation of obligation (or a sense of duty) is the social feelings of mankind. (P.30) We all desire happiness for ourselves and recognize it as a good (for us). Social feeling enables us to recognize that others have the same desire for happiness and that it is a good for them as well.
IV Of What Sort Of Proof The Principle Of Utility Is Susceptible
"The sole evidenceit is possibleto produce that anything is desirable is that people do actually desire it..(P.34) Desires are the raw empirical data from which we draw conclusions about what people ought to do. That something is desired is evidence that it is related to happiness (either as a means or as a constitutent) . The desire for happiness is the motive for human actions not only explaining them but justifying them.
V On The Connection Between Justice And Utility
Justice is [ultimately] a form of utility "...justice [is] only a particular kind or branch of general utility" (P.42)
Mill claims that justice is best defined by its opposite. "Let us therefore advert successively to the various modes of action and arrangements of human affairs which are classed, by universal or widely spread opinion, as just or as unjust." (P.42)
(1) It is most considered unjust to deprive anyone of his personal liberty, his property or any other thing which belongs to him by law. In such cases heis deprived of hisr ights (P.42-3)
(2) A second case of injustice consists in taking or withholding from any person that to which he has a moral right.
(3) It is universally considered jsut that each person should btain what he deserves and unjust that he should obtain a good or be made to undergo an evil which he does not deserve.
(4) It is unjust to break faith with anyone or to violate an engagement.
(5) It is inconsistent with justice to show favor or bias toone person over another in matters to which favor and preference do not apply. Impartiality requires that equals be treated equally
Moral rights form the basis of claims about justice. Moral rights are something which society ought to protect and the reason why society ought to protect them is their general utility. Rights are ultimately based on the need for safety and security. (P.53)
Each person has an equal claim orright to happiness so that individuals may not be sacrificed to produce a greater total amount of happiness (Thus slavery cannot be justified by the claims that enslaving some allows for a greater total of happiness because the individual slaves have an equal right to happiness)