Main Strengths of Mill's Utilitarianism

Categories: PhilosophyStrengths

With rule utilitarianism you first have to agree to the general rule then after you apply it to specific cases. Some people see Mill as a rule utilitarian, which means that you act in accordance with those rules which, if generally followed, would provide the greatest general balance of pleasure over pain.

This rule is also in line with how society works in the way that most people would prefer to cause pleasure rather than pain. Mill separates pleasure into higher and lower as that he thinks some pleasure like higher is more for the soul and are long term and will benefit you as a person and the lower pleasures which are more material and offer short term pleasure but not the sort that lasts.

He use the saying ‘Better to be a human dissatisfied than a pig satisfies; Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied‘ to show the differences between the two pleasures as that you can be a human dissatisfied which is better than being a pig who is satisfied as that you are may not be happy or content but you are doing good which is better than someone who is happy and content but doing bad.

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There are two types of rule utilitarian.

There is the strong rule utilitarian and there is the weak rule utilitarian and they can be identified by the strong utilitarian’s principles should never be broken and the weak rule utilitarian’s principles has a bit of give in the way you can apply it to a particular situation over the general rule.

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The strong form of the theory maintains that rules established through the application of utilitarian principle should never be broken. This means that there is no give in the rules and if you break the rules than you are going against the rule utilitarian act.

The weak version allows for the possibility that those same utilitarian principles can take precedence in a particular situation over a general rule. However, the rule would still form part of the decision making process. The rules should be formulated first, based on the utilitarianism principles. The individual can then judge whether specific acts are acceptable. So the rule utilitarian is more like a guide line and you as a person can choice whether you want to follow each certain act or not. It is a simple and common sense philosophy which people in the twenty first century feel able to apply.

This is a big strength as that Mill lived almost two hundred years ago and you can still apply it today and use it to live your life even though nearly everything has changed. It is also fair and suits democratic society as that if everyone is living in society and abiding by the same rule it makes it easier for society to determine what is right and wrong but it is also fair as that first you agree to the general rule then you apply it to specific case so each individual is different and you can bend the rule is you can but only in specific cases.

One of the biggest strength is that it is a universal rule, accessible whatever culture, religion and society so that it can be applied to everyone and everyone knows where they stand with it, because it is universal you can be more comfortable when communicating with people of religions you will feel more secure. B) Utilitarian’s can lead to wrong decisions. Discuss? Utilitarian often means basic, practical and plain. Some people would regard a plain, simple action or thing to be ‘good’, and complicated, sophisticated approaches to be ‘wrong’.

An action which is judge useful and purposeful is known as a ‘good action’. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) is one of the most recent utilitarian’s to add his input onto how we live in society. He came to argue for a principle of utility, his means that an action should be judged good or bad by looking at its outcome and if an action produces benefits, advantages, pleasure, good or happiness it is ‘good’. Bentham defined society as a ‘’collection of individuals’’.

‘A decision, followed by an action governed by that decision, is judge to be good by its having brought about a maximum amount of pleasure should out among the greatest number of people’. Bentham came up with the theory of the Hedonic Calculus and it is a system by which pleasure can be quantified. The hedonic calculus is split into six sections and each section is like a question and from the answers of each question at the end you can come to a conclusion which can measure the amount of pleasure a thing can give.

Intensity, Duration, Purity, Certainty, Propinquity and Extent are the six sections in which you put a problem in too and at the end you get an answer of which the most pleasure will go to and if it is a higher or lower pleasure. There are difficulties’ with Bentham’s theory like the Hedonic Calculus as it makes a quantative judgement of pleasure as can one action produce the same amount of pleasure as another and can differing pleasures be measured using units of measurements.

It also relies on pleasure as a universal as pleasure for his greatest number assumes that everyone will find the same things pleasurable and we know that each person has there own stuff they like and dislike as we are individuals. So one persons pleasure like classical music is someone else pain like a rockstar. ‘The only good is pleasure and the evil is pain’. This statement is false as that you cannot judge good on one specific action and you can’t judge evil on one action either peoples perception on good and evil changes as no one person is the same a the next.

So having a tattoo can give someone pleasure as that they are getting something they like inked onto their skin forever and they will get great pleasure from it but to another person that could be the worst thing ever as it hurts and cause you pain for a time. On the other hand studying for you’re A levels can be hard and temporarily painful at the time but eventual cause pleasure on results day when you get good grades. This is also higher and lower pleasure which are measure on the whole not as an individual.

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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Main Strengths of Mill's Utilitarianism. (2016, Dec 11). Retrieved from

Main Strengths of Mill's Utilitarianism essay
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