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Utilitarianism Paperback – June 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0872206052 ISBN-10: 087220605X Edition: 2nd

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 71 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Pub Co; 2 edition (June 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087220605X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872206052
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 5.3 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,448 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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

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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Customer Reviews

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Very boring book...I only got it for school.
Very pleased with the quality of the book and it came just in time for my class.
Emily Smelko
This is a great introduction to utilitarianism and use of logic.
E. L. Johnson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Reader From Aurora on September 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Many of the posted reviews refer to a different version of the text (i.e. Crisp vice Sher)

Sher's version is an inexpensive and accessible (good font size and binding) edition of this classic. It contains the 3 essays (unabridged) use to construct Utilitarianism as well as a speech given by Mill while serving as a British MP in 1868 on capital punishment. Readers should note that aside from a short introduction by George Sher, this edition does not contain any additional analysis. Readers looking for a more detailed discussion will need to look elsewhere. Judging from some of the other reviews it sounds as if Crisp's version may be worthwhile.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By socraticfury on November 28, 2008
Format: Paperback
The importance of J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism as a statement of the fundamental tenets of his school is indisputable. Equally unquestionable is the great influence utilitarianism has exerted upon the development of Anglo-American moral philosophy. These facts underscore the necessity of carefully considering whether utilitarianism, as articulated by Mill, offers a sensible or persuasive account of morality.

In utilitarianism, "utility" is synonymous with "happiness"; both denote "pleasure itself, together with exemption from pain." Hence utilitarianism is also referred to as the "greatest happiness principle." However, the latter slogan is misleading insofar as "greatest" is taken to refer merely to quantity. Mill holds that pleasures can be compared not only quantitatively but also qualitatively; "some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others." There is an hierarchy of pleasures, and the happy life will be the life that contains the "greatest" pleasures both in the sense of the "best" or "highest" as well as the "most."

Indeed, Mill argues that the higher pleasures are such that no one who has experienced them would be willing to trade them in for "any quantity" of lower pleasures. "A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and certainly accessible to it at more points," Mill says, "but in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence." Note that this is an empirical argument which implicitly postulates that the pain and suffering caused by heightened sensitivities is outweighed by the pleasures brought on by the higher faculties.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Hasnor Lot on July 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
If it was not for the fact that this book was assigned for the course, I would have thrown it onto the wall in utter frustration for the periodic-style prose in which it was written. Yet in those moments of painful reading I never let my intellect be neglectful of the realization that what lay before me belongs to the highest canon of ethical philosophizing. Mill's ornate style of writing was appropriate for his time, but to the modern reader it sometimes takes several readings to understand a difficult passage.
I agree with the reviewer who noted that Chapter IV, unlike the rest of the book, is singularly almost unintelligible, not only for its long paragraphs, but also for its rambling diversions. Nevertheless, Mill's Utilitarianism should be a required reading for anyone with pretension for interests in issues of morality and social policy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Yaakov (James) Mosher on January 3, 2008
Format: Paperback
One of the Classical School economists explains and defends a system of ethics that counted among its adherents Ludwig von Mises, one of the great Austrian School economists and philosophers.
Utilitarianism, in John Stuart Mill's day and our own, periodically comes under attack from the spokesmen of organized religion. But Mill holds that his philosophy is completely compatible with religious morals. Mill even writes that the founder of Christianity was a utilitarian. Makes sense when we realize that one of the main features of the early Christians was jettisoning Judaism commandments that seem to have no obvious utility (usefulness). That attitude lead them to eventually discard the entire Torah.
Mill imbibed Utilitarianism from his father -- British East India Co. executive and writer James Mill -- and their friend Jeremy Bentham. The two tablets of Utilitarianism are pleasure (acquisition of) and pain (avoidance of). Reduced to one it is the "greatest happiness principle." Mill argues persuasively that these things are more hard-wired into humans than almost everything else. The pursuit of virtue, which some in organized religion see as being at odds with Utilitarianism, is actually a form of the pursuit of happiness for the virtue-seeker, those around him/her, and/or future generations. This adds to the "public good," which is at the peak of Mill's values pyramid.
Utilitarian concepts are all over America's founding documents, especially the Constitution. Interestingly, and ironically, Mill's essay was published at the time of the Constitution's greatest crisis -- the Civil War (1863). Mill makes no mention of the crisis or America's earlier successful marriage of Utilitarianism and federalism/limited government.
Mill's "public good" and the U.S.
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