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Utilitarianism 2nd Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872206052
ISBN-10: 087220605X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

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

About the Author

John Stuart Mill
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.; 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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Paperback
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. It also justifies this plagiarism of Dr B Leland Baker, because it makes me happy. :-)
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Format: Paperback
1. Overview
John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism sets out a moral system that bases the good of any decision on the degree to which it promotes pleasure for the greatest number of people. By pleasure, Mill means not only those lower pleasures associated with the appetites, but also, the higher pleasures of "superior beings" that are associated with the enjoyment of understanding. The smallest amount of higher pleasure is greater than any amount of lower pleasure, for "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied."
For Mill, then, there is no inherent good in any particular object; goodness is based on each object's utility in creating pleasure. All values are thus based on feelings and sensations. There are no normative principles in human nature that we can explore as we seek to discover what creates human happiness. Rather, in determining the good, we are to determine the sums of pleasure and pain for the aggregate of society and thereby discover which of the array of options before any one decision-maker is the one that promotes the greatest amount of pleasure. The moral decision-maker will choose that course of action that leads to the greatest amount pleasure for the greatest number of people.

2. Critique of Mill
Mill's theory on ethics is riddled with problems. One of them is the inherent difficulty involved in calculating the aggregate pleasures and pains of all of the people that will be affected by a particular decision. It is a burdensome and impractical way of coming to make decisions. Even if one could come up with general rules of conduct, the calculation as to when exceptions should be applied is similarly impractical.
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