PL 201 Assignment 5 Mill’s utilitarian ethical theory

Mill’s utilitarian ethical theory





Mill’s utilitarian ethical theory

Utilitarian is the most powerful and most persuasive theory on morality which suggests that no act is right or wrong but it depends on the results from the act. Mill argues that every individual desires to have his or her own happiness whereby happiness is only desirable by itself. He says that our actions are the key determiners of our happiness whereby good action promote happiness while the wrong actions reduce or diminish happiness. We need to maximize our happiness through doing the right thing and avoiding breaking the subordinate rules which might deny us happiness from the consequences. Mill had different perception of pleasure whereby he said that some actions can be good to an individual and as the same time an offence to another. It will depend on an individual and what each feels as pleasure.

According to mill, we cannot predict the future and the outcomes so utilitarian does not require knowledge for the future. It is impossible for human being to predict the challenges which will come in future. The best thing for us to do is to act on right manner so that our actions can bring the best consequences in future. Pleasures or pain can also lead to our happiness or for other people’s happiness. Happiness for great number can be a fantasy because it is hard to get happiness in long-term because happiness oscillates from the actions we do. Through research on a certain population, we can be able to understand which actions provide the greatest happiness for that particular society (Johnson, 2003).

Knowledge is power to happiness but people can be happy without the knowledge about future. Doing the right thing with pleasures can lead to happiness and being optimistic in life. The pleasures can be of different classes which are all directed to self-satisfaction and self-development. Human beings need their demands and needs to be fulfilled and satisfied for them to be happy. Therefore, people can be happy even without the knowledge of the future consequences because future is unpredictable. On the other hand, knowledge is powerful because we may not be able the challenges which comes our way but with the knowledge we can choose which direction to follow.

According to Johnson, (2003) Utilitarian theory can be considered to be immoral but an innocent person can be let to suffer consequences to maximize the happiness of large group. If utilitarian theory is used can lead to immorality in a society whereby happiness is produced from non-moral which is referred to be morality. The right actions determine the weight of happiness whereby the wrong actions creates the reverse of happiness. Utilitarian is unsatisfactory theory because knowledge is power which can open any way for success and happiness. With knowledge we can define the direction to follow even when we are faced by difficult tasks in our lives. We cannot be able to define what the future holds for us but with the knowledge we can choose the direction to focus on. Through experiencing pain we can also gain happiness whereby many people would not like to experience this pain in life (Mill, 2001).

In conclusion, it is clear that most people need to be associated with high pleasures so that they can call themselves happy. Pleasure alone cannot offer happiness because even the environment we are living also determines our happiness including how we relate with the people around us. Mill suggested that the state of mind we have can also determine our happiness because our mind take the kind of pleasure to be. Mill also said that human being should maximize the good actions so that they can bring about greatest happiness to a big group of people (Harsanyi, 2007).


Johnson, M. (2003). Moral imagination: Implications of cognitive science for ethics (Vol. 190). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Mill, J. S. (2001). Utilitarianism. Longmans, Green and Company.

Harsanyi, J. C. (2007). Morality and the theory of rational behavior. Social Research, 623-656.

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