Unit 10 – Coursework Example
John Stuart Mill and His Idea of Utilitarianism and Liberty. The outlook of utilitarian ideology which otherwise is known as the “greatest happiness principle” and it’s prominence to the code of happiness seem unlikely to be erroneous in its virtue. While the moral worth of an action is measured in terms of its overall utility, four central words necessitate analysis, ‘morality’, ‘action’ ‘utility’ and ‘happiness’.
The word ‘utility’ in its essential connotation of usefulness, as John Stuart Mill applies to the theory in question is neither platonic nor simplistic but somewhere in the centre of human desirability unless the word succeeds in, as he puts in, holding “that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness”. (Mill 5) ‘Happiness’ therefore in such a case tend to be denoted as a compulsive outcome of an ‘action’ which always needs to be directed toward a larger purpose. If means (actions) are used to meet such an end (happiness), the contribution thus generated is defined by Mill as ‘moral’. The applicability of such a doctrine demands consideration and contemplation of reason and understanding of morality in human’s conception.
The idea tends to direct toward the reasoning that the virtue of an action must be overt regardless of the actual purpose of the deed. When Mill explicitly claims the object of a virtue as “The multiplication of happiness” (17), he explains in his own example that a man who saves another from drowning form a river is morally right even if his intention was to be rewarded for his action instead of his natural benevolence.
His arguments for liberty, mostly seem to be directed against the “tyranny of the majority” (John Stuart Mill: Overview) meted out to the individuals and is clear in his intention of the word in not discarding a society as a whole but in analyzing the “nature and limits of the power” (Mill 65) that can be exercised legitimately by the same. He believes that one must acquire freedom to pursue our course of action in the light of our own way, “so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it” (65). The only condition that he applies in getting such liberty thus, is not doing others harm in its pursuit. Not different is the line on which he draws his arguments for the need of “individuality” which not only grants rights for opinions but also to carry out those opinions in “their lives, without hindrance…from their fellow-men, so long as it is at their own risk and peril”. (114)
His doctrine of actions determining the optimum happiness, and the liberty that grants them individuality holds good so long as it incorporates all situations where decision are contemplated based on morality. An acute paradox of his own idea of liberty would ensue if ‘morality’ or value in imparting happiness is negated by others, for humans are allowed to be individualistic enough not to accept utilitarianism and liberty as moral! The concept on not doing harm also is another relative consideration where the very “individuality” will occur.
The impressions that John projects, albeit, in considering the worth of an action for universal happiness and human freedom in the light of his own divine wisdom invites “the kind of society that can produce persons fit to enjoy the rights of free discussion” (Sabine) and is worth human reflection.
"John Stuart Mill: Overview." 2006. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 7 July 2009 .
Mill, John Staurt. Utilitarianism, On Liberty and Considerations on Representative Government. Ed. H.B. Acton. London: Guernsey Press Co. Ltd, 1972.
Sabine, George H. A History of Political Theory. 3rd Edition. Delhi: Surjeet Publications, 2007.