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On the Connection Between Justice and Utility

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Paul El-Hashem


Dr. Butera

March 12, 2011

On the Connection Between Justice and Utility 3/12/2011

John Stuart Mill’s (PRINCIPLE) of utilitarianism has been criticized by many challengers who state that utilitarianism does not allow for the protection of individual rights or the concept of justice. However, after establishing the (foundation) and principles of utilitarianism in chapters one through four, Mill defends his principle in chapter five by countering the claim against the compatibility between utility and justice. In doing so, Mill ultimately contests his critics by supporting utility, and demonstrating how the principles of justice are based on the greatest happiness principle. In this essay, I will briefly examine the principles of utilitarianism in order to better understand Mill’s defense in chapter 5. I will also periodically compare Kantian views to help provide a better understanding of Mill’s principles. I will then explain Mill’s meaning of Justice and how it correlates to utility, and compare it to Kant’s understanding of (Justice).

John Stuart Mill presents the moral theory of utilitarianism which is best explained through the greatest happiness principle which states, that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. Mill further clarifies that by happiness he is referring to pleasure and the absence of pain#. Through the greatest happiness principle, Mill suggests that people should strive to gain the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people through their actions. Morally good actions are viewed by Mill as actions whose ends result in good consequences. As oppose to Kant who focuses on the importance of the intention of the will and does not place emphasis on the consequence. Mill solely places emphasis on the consequence rather than on the intention of the act. Therefore, the motivations of a person do not matter as long as the end promotes happiness. According to the greatest happiness principle, people will ultimately seek the greatest end which is happiness as human beings seek pleasure above all other things#. However, Mill then distinguishes between higher pleasures and lower pleasures and defines lower pleasures as sensational pleasures such as eating and sex, and defines higher pleasures as intellectual acts such as pursuing knowledge. Mill then clarifies that only a person who has experienced both levels of pleasure can understand the two; furthermore, once educated a person will implement his higher facilities in order to experience higher levels of pleasure. Mill then clarifies that when a person seeks pleasures they should act strictly as a disinterested and benevolent spectator. In doing so, the utilitarian standard incorporates not focusing on personal interests; rather, one should act out of concern for the interest of the whole, as exemplified by the actions of Jesus#. However, there still lies the question of why a person should act in such a way, and Mill explains that this motivation comes from external and internal sanctions #.

Mill explains external sanctions as sanctions that we receive from society such as punishment or disapproval from our peers when one inflicts pain on society through actions of stealing or killing. Religious motivation is another external example that Mill provides towards the conduciveness to the general happiness in which God could morally punish or reward mankind. Internal sanctions on the other hand exist


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