Monday, November 17, 2014
Father vs. Son (Utilitarianism) - Shania DelCampo (13) 2 of 4
The Theory of Utilitarianism was first thought of by Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, John Stuart Mill's father. The basic idea is what's best for society and the individual, produces the best outcome. For instance, murder would be considered morally wrong because people not being killed in society is a better outcome then people being murdered. From an individual’s perspective, watching their favorite show on the couch produces the most happiness as opposed to going for a long run. Their happiness is simply defined as what produces the most pleasure over pain.
John believed that what was best for the society and the individual was whatever made them happy as long as it did not harm anyone else. For example the government should not intervene in an alcoholic’s life so long as they do not pose a problem to society. As for an individual's view, the alcoholic could only be an alcoholic if s/he only affected him or herself in the process. This is what John calls the harm principle. In simple terms the harm principle states that you can do as you please so long as you do not harm anyone in the process. This goes for emotional and physical harm. Also in John's view happiness is more complex. In his view happiness has two levels, a higher and lower pleasures. Higher level pleasures are much more desirable to humans then the lower level.
As mentioned in my last post, James is who educated John. So being that James was a utilitarian he taught John with his own views. However James taught John socraticly, meaning that John did not memorize his father’s teachings, he questioned them and formulated his own ideas.