John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism

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Utilitarianism is an ethical theory based on the idea people should act in a way that produces the greatest optimal utility. In other words, people’s choices should achieve the greatest amount or benefits for the greatest amount of people and oneself. In this paper, I will argue the Hedonistic view point John Stuart Mill presents is a more refined branch of utilitarianism because of Mill’s concept of higher and lower pleasures . This paper is broken into two main sections. I will begin by outlining Mill’s Hedonistic Utilitarianism. Then I will present a major challenge for Mill’s view - Nozick’s ultimate pleasure concept- and why it fails to defeat Mill’s hedonistic utilitarianism. As stated in the introduction, utilitarianism is the ethical…show more content…
According to Bentham’s view, humans and well-kept animals should have the same pleasure experiences. Mill does not see this as the case. He believes the pleasures animals experience are of lesser value than those which only human beings are capable of experiencing. As in, animals cannot experience the pleasure that comes from higher intelligence/ knowledge and refined thought. Mill believes pleasure seeking and the wish to gain quality knowledge go hand in…show more content…
In order for Nozick’s argument to work, the decision maker must be a “competent judge”. As in, the individual must be “completely acquainted”, an expert, with both pleasures they must choose between . But how can one be a “competent judge” when they are only entering the machine for, according to Nozick, two years at a time? In order to be a “competent judge”, one would need to live one life in the machine and one life in reality before distinguishing which life is more pleasurable. Since it is impossible for someone to live two lives (one in the machine and one outside), Mill’s Hedonism is not defeated by Nozick’s thought experiment. Finally, the counter argument Robert Nozick presents fails to successfully attack Mill’s hedonistic utilitarianism. Nozick’s fatal flaw of not creating a “competent judge” does not allow his thought experiment to triumph. Mill’s explanation of lower and higher pleasures creates more complexity in hedonistic thought and doesn’t allow the body pleasures to have the same merit as pleasures associated with the mind. His ability to take Bentham’s and previous hedonist’s ideas of pleasure a step further strengthens the Hedonistic Utilitarian
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