JohnStuart Mill "The Greatest Happiness Principle."
JohnStuart Mill was quite explicit in his argument regarding the GreatestHappiness Principle, also known as utilitarianism. He maintained thata given activity is right if it promotes happiness to a givenindividual or group of people. The reverse of the argument would alsobe true, given that, where a particular activity causes the oppositeof happiness, it may be considered to be wrong. The idea does advancethe view that people need to put more focus into those activitiesthat have the ability to generate some forms of pleasure in some way.Individuals also need to pay more attention towards ensuring they areable to reduce the pain that may be associated with the givenpractices they are involved in. Mill also maintained the argumentthat the virtue majorly lies in ensuring that the actions carried outby a given individual should result in causing a reduction in hisgeneral happiness. The paper aims to look into the downsides of theGreatest Happiness Principle while providing justification for thesame
Inessence, the Greatest Happiness Principle is quite impossible toapply given the fact that happiness, by itself, cannot be measured.For instance, one cannot simply state that he is happier today thanhe was yesterday. Some forms of pleasure are purely not quantifiableand, therefore, simply subject to the current feelings that a givenindividual could be having in the day (Lindebaum, & Effi 7).Therefore, by stating that a given person is more geared towardsattaining the greatest happiness, the case is misleading as anindividual may not be in a position to decide the extent of suchsatisfaction and the level which may be determined to be mostdesirable. It is also evident that the perception of happiness couldalso be an effect of various environmental factors but not merely theoutcome of the specific activity that the given person was involvedin. With such view, it is, therefore, quite clear that linking theactivity with the happiness that the person is feeling may be quitewrong. It is also quite evident that happiness is subjective bynature and a situation where a given consuders himself to be happy,could the the same in which another individual does not. What isconsidered to be right has, however, remained standard in manycommunities.
Theprinciple also does generalize the element of outcomes that may berealized from engaging in activities that derive pleasure. However,through such a case, Mill fails to address one important aspect. Suchis the element of all the consequences of a given activity. Despitethe fact that the specific activity could have the general outcome ofcausing happiness to a given individual, there is a high chance thatit could also end up having other unwanted results that would havenegative consequences upon other persons (Kurer 27). One instance isthat of a drunkard. The person could be deriving pleasure from havinga high level of indulgence into taking alcohol. In spite of thehappiness realized, the close relatives of the individual such as hiswife and children could end up bearing the brunt of such an activitysince he may end up lacking the ability to fully focus on providingfor them most effectively.Irony is, therefore, realized, whereindividuals put more attention on activities that will end up hamringpeople around them, and still consider such actions right, justbecause they experience some form of pleasure from the kind ofactivity they are engaged in. The individuals would, therefore, needto put more attention towards taking part in activities in which theyare fully convinced will end up bearing the right level of outcomeamong people around them.
Theprinciple of the greatest happiness also does conflict with the usualmoral judgments. It puts more emphasis upon an individual payingclose attention to personal happiness as opposed to caring about theneeds of other people. In essence, it does promote the case ofselfishness and self-centeredness. An individual is bound to considercarrying out exercises that are obliged to make him happy withoutputting into consideration any ramifications that could be broughtabout by such practices upon other people (Kurer 29). It does goagainst the duty of care and the general element of humanity whichtouches on ensuring that people maintain the general view of puttingthe interests of other individuals in front. In the end, it isevident that such a practice may end up leading to the general lossof the moral fabric of society, where people end up paying lessattention to the general needs of others.
Thegreatest happiness principle also goes a long way to propagate statusquo. People are bound to continue taking part in actions which aregenerally considered as bad, only because the actions do not have anynegative bearing on them. They will also turn a blind eye into someproblems that do exist in the society simply because they do notaffect them directly. With their own view, such people feel that theyare generally happy and do not need to bother themselves withoccurrences that have a negative connotation upon others or couldhave serious ramifications in the long-term (Robinson 4). In the erawhere serious societal problems need to be acted upon, the principlegenerally presents a huge challenge towards the achievement of anoble cause. One of the existing problems that would require anaction by many people in the society is global warming. All partiesdo retain the general rule of ensuring that they carry out practicesthat would do little to advance the effects of climate change thatare felt in different parts of the world. Where some individualschoose to distance themselves from such a practice, there is a highchance that they could end up hampering better outcomes from beingrealized from the process in the end.
Anotherproblem with the principle is the fact that higher pleasures arelargely inconsistent with status quo. In the end, there is a highchance that they could end up interfering with the general element ofpeople having the ability to achieve high levels of satisfaction as aresult of doing what is good (Das 292). Hedonism is edged on anindividual having attained the state of self-actualization, where hefeels that he has been able to advance best practices that are boundto be of huge importance for other people. Where individuals are somuch concerned with following the tenets of utilitarianism, there isa high chance they could end up missing the entire point, which isbased on ensuring that they are able to derive happiness from doinggood to other individuals The belief that happiness is equivalent togood is quite misleading and is bound to bring about seriousramifications to such case.
Thereare, however, some views that aim to show how good the greatesthappiness principle. The proponents of the argument indicate that theprinciple enables people to put a lot of focus on things that makethem happy (Schneider 39). Such individuals are, therefore, able tofocus on themselves and there is a very low chance that they couldend up interfering with the activities of other people. The reason isthat they will also have a view that other individuals have the rightto seek their own happiness and, as a result, it may not be advisableto come between what they normally consider to be important to them.They also maintain that such an action, for the most part, makes themavoid situations where they could end up coming into directconfrontations with other individuals.
Suchan argument is, however, wrong. The reason behind the case is thatpeople need to have the ability to also focus on the actions carriedout by other individuals. It is through such a process that they areable to identify whether what such people are doing is right orwrong. They are also able to clearly define the extent to whichcertain actions may be carried out and those levels that may not bepermissible (Das 292). Also, by paying attention to the lives ofother people, individuals are able to offer advice and guidance,where necessary, in a bid to ensure that they help address anyproblems that they may be going through. The activity will,therefore, show that people are able to uplift one another throughtaking steps to identify and try to meet the needs of other people.People are also able to learn crucial information with regard to thekind of practices they need to put in place in order to lead morefulfilling lives. Through paying attention to the lives of otherindividuals, they are able to learn of the kind of practices theyneed to avoid and such a case would end up acting as a good learningexperience for all of them.
Inconclusion, the greatest happiness principle is bound to have manynegative effects on society as opposed to the positive effects thatmay be realized with application of such an ideology. People need tobe more focused towards ensuring they can do good to otherindividuals, too, and not merely focus on those actions that bringhappiness towards them. They also need to take the time to look intothe affairs of other individuals. Human beings are social by natureand, as such, there is a need for proper actions being taken in a bidto ensure that the level of cooperation among them is highlyeffective. The principle is also bound to lead to moral decadence inthe society,, where people condone wrong practices just because theyhave a view that they make them happy. As a result, people may end uplosing touch with the essential issues in life as they focus onelements that bring joy to their hearts, as opposed to putting morefocus on issues that would be considered to be right in the end. Itis, therefore, evident that, with continuity of such practices, themoral fabric of society will greatly reduce.
Das,Sarat. "Why state economic and social policies are utilitarianthan deontological?." The Business & Management Review 5.1(2014): 292.
Kurer,Oskar. John Stuart Mill (Routledge Revivals): The Politics ofProgress. Routledge, 2016. 25-31
Lindebaum,Dirk, and Effi Raftopoulou. "What would John Stuart Mill say? Autilitarian perspective on contemporary neuroscience debates inleadership." Journal of Business Ethics (2015): 1-10.
Robinson,Jeffrey M. "An Incongruent Amalgamation: John Stuart Mill`sUtilitarianism on Naturalism." Eleutheria 4.2 (2015): 4.
Schneider,Robert C. "Utilitarian Moral Theory: Parallels between a SportsOrganization and Society." (2014). 37-43