On Liberty is the classic statement and defence of the view that governmental encroachment upon the freedom of individuals is almost never warranted.
Summary[ edit ] Mill took many elements of his version of utilitarianism from Jeremy Benthamthe great nineteenth-century legal reformer, who along with William Paley were Bentham s utiltarianism two most influential English utilitarians prior to Mill.
Like Bentham, Mill believed that happiness or pleasure, which both Bentham and Mill equated with happiness was the only thing humans do and should desire for its own sake.
Since happiness is the only intrinsic good, and since more happiness is preferable to less, the goal of the ethical life is to maximize happiness. This is what Bentham and Mill call "the principle of utility" or "the greatest-happiness principle. More recent utilitarians often deny that happiness is the sole intrinsic good, arguing that a variety of values and consequences should be considered in ethical decision making.
In particular, Mill tried to develop a more refined form of utilitarianism that would harmonize better with ordinary morality and highlight the importance in the ethical life of intellectual pleasures, self-development, high ideals of character, and conventional moral rules.
In Chapter 1, titled "General Remarks," Mill notes that there has been little progress in ethics. Since the beginning of philosophy, the same issues have been debated over and over again, and philosophers continue to disagree sharply over the basic starting points of ethics.
Mill argues that these philosophical disputes have not seriously damaged popular morality, largely because conventional morality is substantially, though implicitly, utilitarian.
He concludes the chapter by noting that he will not attempt to give a strict "proof" of the greatest-happiness principle. Like Bentham, Mill believed that ultimate ends and first principles cannot be demonstrated, since they lie at the foundation of everything else that we know and believe.
Nevertheless, he claims, "[c]onsiderations may be presented capable of determining the intellect,"  which amount to something close to a proof of the principle of utility. In the second chapter, Mill formulates a single ethical principle, the principle of utility or greatest-happiness principle, from which he says all utilitarian ethical principles are derived: By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.
These include charges that utilitarianism: He notes that most people who have experienced both physical and intellectual pleasures tend to greatly prefer the latter.
Few people, he claims, would choose to trade places with an animal, a fool, or an ignoramus for any amount of bodily pleasure they might thereby acquire. And since "the sole evidence it is possible to produce that something is desirable, is that people do actually desire it,"  it follows that intellectual pleasures e.
In reply to the objection that there generally isn't enough time to calculate how a given act might affect the long-term general happiness, Mill sketches a kind of "two-tier" approach to ethics that accords an important place to moral rules in ethical decision-making.
Normally we should follow such "secondary principles" without reflecting much on the consequences of our acts. As a rule, only when such second-tier principles conflict is it necessary or wise to appeal to the principle of utility directly.
He explores a variety of ways in which both external and internal sanctions — that is, the incentives provided by others and the inner feelings of sympathy and conscience — encourage people to think about how their actions affect the happiness of others.
The ultimate sanction, Mill claims, is internal. Humans are social animals who naturally desire "to be in unity with our fellow creatures. In the fourth chapter Mill offers his famous quasi-proof of the greatest-happiness principle. The core of his argument is this: The only proof that something is desirable is that people do actually desire it.
So, each person's happiness is a good to that person. Therefore, the general happiness is a good to the aggregate of all persons. In such cases, is the general happiness a good to those individuals?
Other critics have questioned whether it makes sense to speak of aggregates as having desires,  or whether the fact that something is desired proves that it is desirable. Critics of utilitarianism often claim that judging actions solely in terms of their effects on the general happiness is incompatible with a robust respect for individual rights and a duty to treat people as they deserve.
Mill appreciates the force of this objection and argues that feelings of justice are rooted in both a natural human desire to retaliate for injuries and a natural instinct for sympathy for those who have been wrongly injured; that justice has a utilitarian basis since an injustice is committed only when a person's rights have been violated, and an alleged right should be protected by society only when doing so promotes the general happiness; that people disagree deeply about what sorts of things are and are not just, and utilitarianism provides the only rational basis for resolving such conflicts.
Influence[ edit ] Mill's Utilitarianism remains "the most famous defense of the utilitarian view ever written"  and is still widely assigned in university ethics courses around the world.
Largely owing to Mill, utilitarianism rapidly became the dominant ethical theory in Anglo-American philosophy.Bentham's campaign for social and political reforms in all areas, most notably the criminal law, had its theoretical basis in his utilitarianism, expounded in his Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, a work written in but not published until I.
Like most right-thinking people, I’d always found Immanuel Kant kind of silly. He was the standard-bearer for naive deontology, the “rules are rules, so follow them . I.
Like most right-thinking people, I’d always found Immanuel Kant kind of silly. He was the standard-bearer for naive deontology, the “rules are rules, so follow them . John Stuart Mill's book Utilitarianism is a classic exposition and defence of utilitarianism in ethics. The essay first appeared as a series of three articles published in Fraser's Magazine in ; the articles were collected and reprinted as a single book in Mill's aim in the book is to explain what utilitarianism is, to show why it is the best theory of .
John Stuart Mill's book Utilitarianism is a classic exposition and defence of utilitarianism in ethics.
The essay first appeared as a series of three articles published in Fraser's Magazine in ; the articles were collected and reprinted as a single book in Mill's aim in the book is to explain what utilitarianism is, to show why it is the best theory of ethics, and to defend it.
Jeremy Bentham (/ ˈ b ɛ n θ ə m /; 15 February [O.S. 4 February ] – 6 June ) was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.