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The Utilitarianism (Hackett Classics) Paperback – June 15, 2002

57 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872206052 ISBN-10: 087220605X Edition: Second Edition,2

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Adding the selections from the Speech on Capital Punishment is an excellent idea. --Mark Migotti, University of Calgary

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Book Description

Reissued in its corrected 1864 second edition, this work by the philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-73) argues for a utilitarian theory of morality, refining Bentham's 'greatest happiness' principle and defending it from common criticisms. Mill's key discussion on the topic, it remains a fundamental text in ethics. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: Hackett Classics
  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; Second Edition,2 edition (June 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087220605X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872206052
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Dr B Leland Baker on December 20, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
John Stuart Mill was one of the most influential British philosophers and writers in the 1800s. His treatise on utilitarianism was written to explain the philosophical concept because he stated that it had been misutilized or mischaracterized by numerous influential people of his time. This version of his writings includes:

Chapter 1. General Remarks
Chapter 2. What utilitarianism is
Chapter 3. Of the ultimate sanction of the principle of utility
Chapter 4. Of what sort of proof the principle of utility is susceptible
Chapter 5. Of the connexion between justice and utility

While much of his writing can be lengthy and occasionally difficult to understand, I find his written arguments contribute greatly to the development of logical thought. Perhaps my favorite quote from John Stuart Mill is "In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as you would be done by, and to love your neighbor as yourself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality."

And that ...

"Happiness which forms the utilitarian standard of what is right in conduct, is not the agent's own happiness, but that of all concerned."

This is a great introduction to utilitarianism and use of logic.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Van Wagoner VINE VOICE on August 3, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is my first reading of anything by Mill. This book is on several lists of great works and I can clearly understand why it is. The author is explaining the theory of utility that attempts to explain the difference between good and bad, and justice and injustice. He explained his theory clearly and covered several difficult points in an elegant manner. This book is quite short, and it is amazing what he covered in such a concise, yet powerful manner.

This is the free kindle edition and it worked out great for me. It has no table of contents or links, but in this short work I didn't find them necessary. The built in dictionary in the kindle came in handy since Mill used several words that I hadn't seen before. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in philosophy. I'll have to read more of Mill's works.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert W. Smith VINE VOICE on April 16, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
JS Mill being one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 19th century posits his view of the moral philosophy of utilitarianism. While cutting edge in its day / 150 years later we have had the benefit of dozens of additional philosophers of morality and political science. Stimulating to read for the concepts and examples. The average sentence consists of 8 dependent clauses and 100 words. While lengthy and complex arguments are offered / each is structurally sound. Outstanding reading that merits a solid A. It is highly recommended that you reread this book every decade or so to gain additional insights.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Derek Jones on February 5, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
Anybody hoping that this book will answer the challenges put to utilitarians today will be disappointed. There is no answer to questions such as whether a terrorist can legitimately be tortured to reveal the location of a bomb or whether an innocent life can be sacrificed to save many lives. What the book does have, however, is Mill's revised version of utilitarianism that is important because it plays a major role in his other works such as "Liberty" and "Representative Government".

Most of the book explains and agrees with Bentham's version of utilitarianism that has no place for rights and replaces the concept of good/evil with pleasure/pain, but Mill's version of utilitarianism has an important difference - the claim that some pleasures are of higher quality than others, and if this is so then utilitarianism should strive to enable everybody to enjoy the superior pleasures.

Mill defines utilitarianism as the "Greatest Happiness Principle" that judges "that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness." In this he is following Bentham's definition, but Bentham had devised a "felicific calculus" to determine the amount of pleasure (and hence moral worth) arising from any given action. It depended on things such as the intensity, duration and number of people affected. Bentham did not believe that one pleasure is in any way better than another except in terms of quantity. He wrote, for example, that "Prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry."

Mill disagrees with this relativism, arguing that "some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others." In other words, quality is more important than quantity.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Taos Turner on February 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
Roger Crisp's introduction to Utilitarianism by J.S. Mill is hands down the best review-mini-course available on Mill and his thought. This book is easy to read and follow, especially for a philosophical text. If you are a student who needs to understand Utilitarianism, look no further - this is your book. If you are teacher, this introduction provides an excellent breakdown of Mill's arguments that can be shown to students.

The book includes 1) an editor's introduction - which is excellent - 2) an analysis of Utilitarianism 3) the text of the original essay itself - which is actually just 58 pages - and 4) extensive notes. By reading this book from beginning to end, you will gain a good understanding of Utilitarianism - as presented by Mill - in a very brief period of time.

The most difficult part of the book to read is Mill's essay, but even this is accessible, particularly when compared with other philosophical works.
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