Utilitarianism – Essay Excellence

Utilitarianism

1. The theory of morality offered in Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill is a combination of two more general ethical positions: consequentialism and hedonism. Explain how the central thesis of utilitarianism – what Mill calls “the greatest happiness principle” or “the principle of utility” – is a result of combining these two positions. Their combination seems to give utilitarianism certain desirable features. Explain the supposed merits utilitarianism offers, focusing on the universality and objectivity of moral rightness or wrongness on this view, their worldliness (rather than trascendentness), the sense in which morality becomes scientific – like, and the scope of our moral obligations. Brief comparisons to other views of morality may help i lluminate these points. The appeal to hedonism raises certain worries for utilitarianism. Discuss why, even taking its more sophisticated version of hedonism into account (call it “egalitarian hedonism”), some have called utilitarianism “a doctrine worthy only of swine.” What is the worry behind this objection? How does Mill respond to this challenge, and how is this supposed to solve the problem? Next, consider the effects of Mill’s response on the supposed merits of utilitarianism mentioned above. How mig ht one object that his response introduces a complication that undermines them? Give an example to illustrate the problem. Is there anything Mill could say to deflect this challenge? Finally, discuss whether you think the problems utilitarianism faces on this front invalidate the

view, or whether they can be overcome. Give reasons for your position.

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