Utilitarianism: John Stuart Mill's Greatest Happiness

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When looking at the murderer at the door situation, utilitarianism offers a suitable guide for whether or not you should lie. Utilitarianism offers a way to think of the situation regarding the “Greatest Happiness Principle”, namely regarding the increase in happiness and reduction of pain (John Stuart Mill, 461). Utilitarianism also mentions nobleness in its guideline. There are concerns about the usefulness of utilitarianism in the situation. This most prominently includes which person you should increase the happiness of. Lastly, the concerns are resolved and the usefulness of utilitarianism in this situation is again demonstrated. Utilitarianism shows which individual to benefit in the situation by referring back to the earlier happiness …show more content…

As John Stuart Mill speaks about the “Greatest Happiness Principle”, the goal when making a utilitarian based decision is, “an existence exempt as far as possible from pain” (464). An individual getting murdered is clearly quite close to pain, and the murderer is getting no closer to any form of pain. If you tell the truth to the murderer, they may gain happiness, but the individual who dies will experience great pain. Family and friends of the victim will also suffer deeply as a result of the murder. If, however, you lie to the murderer, they may experience some pain in not accomplishing their goal, but it will not be nearly as large as the pain that will come from the victim being murdered. So while both cases may cause pain, it is clear which situation will cause the greatest pain and least amount of happiness. Looking at both parties can confuse the utilitarian interpreter, as happiness will be achieved for both parties in contradictory ways. Even so, utilitarianism than guides you to look at what will achieve the greatest happiness, and as earlier discussed, the greatest happiness comes from lying to the murderer. Even if the murderer was a personal friend and someone who’s happiness was of interest to you, the “Greatest Happiness Principle” would guide you to lie in order to increase overall happiness and decrease pain (John Stuart Mill,

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