Utilitarianism and Greatest Happiness Principle Essay
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Happiness Happiness: In one word, this concept exemplifies the American dream.
People go to any means by which to obtain the many varied materials and issues that induce pleasures in each individual, and intrinsically, this emotion remains the ultimate goal, John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth century philosopher, correctly advocated the pursuit of happiness, and maintained the concept that above all other values, pleasure existed as the final destination, Mill’s hedonistic views correctly and rationally identified a natural human tendency, and his Utilitarian arguments strongly support the theory that above all else, happiness is the most important dream to be fulfilled.
Upon researching for this paper, I came across a counter argument, which was based on metaphysics. Immanuel Kant, in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, defends his strong beliefs in the issue of a good will, and surfaces as MM’s chief opponent on the topic of metaphysics, The issue diminishes to a clash between emotions and pleasures ve rses rationality and logic.
Yet, what use is logic when the good agent is miserable? Mill’s stance within Utilitarianism exists as the more favorable of the two beliefs, for happiness exist as the one intrinsically favorable element, not an emotionless mind.
The main defender of the Utilitarian system exists within the Greatest happiness Principle. Mill lived as a chief advocate of this concept, which supports the idea that a decision is morally correct as long as it increases and encourages pleasures and happiness. Kant, however, in his endless quest to remain separate from emotions and thrive only on logic, would argue that autonomy should be placed above happiness in a list of intrinsic values. A good will, however, does not comfort an individual in any way if happiness does not accompany this asset, Consider this example of a seemingly happily married couple.
The wife in this duo is madly in love with her husband fiercely loyal, and completely happy with her marriage and children. The husband, however, as wrongfully strayed, and had a brief, but damaging affair behind his wife’s back. Kant would argue that autonomy reigns over pleasure, and the woman should therefore want to be informed of her husband’s adultery, Mill would greatly disagree. By revealing the secret of the past affair, the woman’s happy world would be instantly shattered. Her pride would diminish, her stability would fall apart, and the children especially would be forced to view a nasty side of their beloved father.
In this case, individual control is greatly overshadowed by the need for happiness. The husband is no longer acting unfaithful and the family can easily continue to live in a happy realm, If the secret were to become uncovered, all members of this circumstance unavoidably would become terribly disappointed, Under the Greatest Happiness Principle, the wife should not be informed. Since happiness truly lives as the ultimate in human desires, sparing such immense amounts of pain truly is the logical choice, Mill’s argument prevails, and all those involved remain happy.
Through this example, one can easily see that although autonomy is often a favorable feature, it does not overshadow the importance of happiness. One of the main arguments against Utilitarianism exist in the lack of apparent fairness. An advocate of the Kantian logic principle would argue that Mill’s belief system does not allow for equal treatment, When considering what is best for an entire society, however, it is necessary for certain individuals to endure suffering.
The good of society remains the ultimate goal, and unfortunate pain is therefore inevitable, If young children are being killed in a certain community, the obvious good for this society is discovering and punishing the murderer. Especially when children are involved, people automatically demand prompt justice. The officials of this area have searched immensely for the accused, yet no leads have surfaced, and the community suddenly erupts with anger, they demand that someone be punished, As a Utilitarian, the police chief sees a window of opportunity.
A drug dealer has recently been brought in on yet another drug selling offense, and the chief decides to coerce the invalu able member of society into confessing the crime at hand, By doing so, the community instantly reunites in support and a dangerous and deadly revolt is avoided, and a menace to society is right back where he would have been regardless of his confession: behind bars, Kant, however, would argue that logically, the chase for the true offender should continue.
He would shun the emotional decision to make the whole society happy by ignoring the rational decisions. But since the community obviously chooses happiness over logic, Kant’s arguments are irrelevant. In addition, Kant believes in a decision making process completely separate from the natural human emotions, Such a demand is possible only for a character such as Star Trek’s Dr. Spock, for human emotions are as much a part of every day life as the decision making process itself. Logically speaking, therefore, Mill’s Utilitarianism arguments maintain the largest dose of validity.
Other opponents to the philosophical viewpoint of Utilitarianism state that followers of this belief system often promote an ignorant lifestyle, They maintain that advocates of the Greatest Happiness Principle believe in the theory that “ignorance is bliss,” Again, such reasoning is quite faulty. Displaying the erroneousness of this statement can be done by examining the issue of AIDS, An opponent of Utilitarianism would say an Infected HIV victim would not want to be aware of his disorder, Such a belief is extremely incorrect.
Mill and other Utilitarian are strong advocates of education, for with intelligence, greater levels of achievement and happiness can be obtained. A member of this belief system would rightly argue that being aware of the disorder could increase long-term happiness, for treatments and support from friends and family could greatly aid the victim’s fight against his or her alhnents, Mills therefore strongly support education systems and believe in making society as a whole as happy as possible.
In the case of the AIDS victim, a Utilitarian would also support the notification of the disorder to the victim in order to spare others of contracting the virus, The happiness of the majority would not be increased by an unknowing HIV carrier spreading the disease to other defenseless individuals, Utilitarianism clearly is not a ignorant way to live, and the Kantian philosophy of ignoring the irrational system of emotions cannot refute this standard. Without happiness, the other opportunities and necessities lose nearly all levels of importance.
A true Utilitarian supports only those concepts that promote the highest levels of pleasures, and as Mill states, encourages only those actions that promote real happiness, From a Kantian viewpoint, rationality and the possession of a good will remains the most important element, but even someone with the truest and most logical of intentions can easily exist in a realm of pure depression. The one link that exists between these opposite belief systems is the concept that, all decisions should be made outside of one’s personality.
The key is that Kant said this decisions should be made without any regard for human emotions, A request of this magnitude is a part of a utopian society only, for ignoring one’s emotions is an illogical assumption in itself, If your child and wife are both dying, deciding which one to save cannot be made without some emotional influence, Utilitarianism allows for the emotional side of life but requests only that the Greatest Happiness Principle be strictly followed.
Any truly decent human being naturally follows such a request every day, Decisions are made based on the greatest level of happiness, That way, the largest majority of people benefit, and the greatest amount of happiness is achieved. Yet as Kant believed, a more morally correct decision lies at the heart of every dilemma.
How does one decide who is morally more correct to save in an instance where two cherished loved ones are passing away, and only one individual may be saved? And even more importantly, how does one do so without regard emotions? I personally feel that living strictly by the doctrine of Kantian philosophy is completely impossible. Being a Utilitarian and hedonist, such as Mill, makes more sense to me.