Mill’s Principle of Utility
Please work with your classmates to construct a high-quality, extended academic discussion of the following questions. As always in our class, please work together to clarify concepts, explore questions, and analyze specific passages from our excerpt of Mill’s Utilitarianism. •What, according to Mill, is greatest happiness principle? Exactly how does he think that principle can be used to determine whether a proposed course of action would be the right or the wrong thing to do? •How easy or hard is to to apply the utilitarian “hedonistic calculus”? Does performing these calculations require us to know exactly what will happen in the future? If not, how can we be confident that we understand what the consequences of a proposed action will be?
NOTE: The Meaning of UTILITY British English and American English can look the same but have very different meanings. For Mill, “utility” means “usefulness”–just like if you had a “utility room” or “utility closet” in your home or place or business, that would be where you stored your “useful” things (like brooms, mops, and so forth).
So, when Mill talks about the Principle of Utility, it might help to read it as the “Principle of Usefulness.” The most “useful” ethical decision will be the one that results in the greatest amount of happiness for the majority of the people. And, if we add Bentham’s Hedonic Calculus, the Calculus becomes a sort of “costs and benefits” analysis for ethical decision-making for determing the action which would produce the most useful results for the majority of the people who would be affected by that decision (since that would make them happier).