Of the Ultimate Sanction of the Principle of Utility
Of What Sort of Proof the Principle of Utility is Susceptible
(On the Connection between Justice and Utility)
Thu 15/03/07 14.15-16.15
How would you object to the claim that there can be ice-creams of different quality (such that a little bit of one kind of ice-cream is much better than lots of another kind of ice-cream), if ice-cream is the only valuable thing?
The Utilitarian Principle
“The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals ‘utility’ or the ‘greatest happiness principle’ holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”
actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness
3 Points About the Formulation
Comparative Notion of Rightness (?)
Type/token distinction (act- versus rule-utilitarianism
Misplaced Comparative (right actions can produce only pain)
An action is right if and only if it produces more good (happiness) than any available alternative.
An action is right if its consequences are better than those of any of its alternatives, whereby betterness is determined (in some way) by pleasures and pains arising from this action.
‘It is exacting too much to require that people shall always act from the inducement of promoting the general interests of society’.
Mill’s Answer: ‘But this is to mistake the very meaning of a standard of morality and to confound the rule of action with the motive for it.’
In other words, utilitarianism tells us which actions are right, it is silent about motives.
Davies Objection (fn 2)
Saving to make him happy versus saving to harm him later on. Are they both right?
Mill’s answer: Had Mr Davies said, ‘The rightness or wrongness of saving a man from drowning does depend very much not upon the motive, but upon the intention’, no utilitarian would have differed from him.
The distinction is hard to make
It seems to involve a change away from his original answer.