John Stuart Mills Essay, Research Paper
Is ignorance bliss? Would human beings, without higher thought processes, lead a happier existence? Or, is it better to be a human dissatisfied, than a pig satisfied ?(Mill, 335). These are questions that plagued the mind of John Stuart Mill. These are questions that help us look into ourselves and form our own opinions of pleasure, happiness, and utility.
Utilitarianism is a hedonistic philosophy that advocates the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. In 1861, John Stuart Mill wrote Utilitarianism and revised the ideas of earlier utilitarian philosophers such as Jeremy Bentham. Mill s views on the ideas of utility were not as cut and dry as they once had been. Mill objected to many of the oversimplifications of original theorists and revamped the misunderstandings of utility and in the process formed his own base of critics.
Essentially, Mill believed that human beings have a greater capacity for understanding and utilizing pleasure than lower animals. He believed that we should not only desire quantity of pleasure but also quality. This is an important distinction that had never been factored in to the equation. In terms of pleasure and happiness, spiritual and intellectual insight should be rated higher than physical pleasure. However, the individual must experience both and weigh his own pleasures. A fool or a pig has no way to distinguish pleasure from pleasure, because to them, pleasure is merely pleasure. If reading poetry brings about a greater pleasure than playing baseball, should not poetry be deemed morally superior to that individual? I agree with Mill s claim that each individual has their own interpretation of what is pleasurable to them. Only the self-aware individual who has experienced both higher and lower pleasures can compare the two.
Another difficulty that Mill noted was that Utilitarianism required us to act as a moral saint to continually bring about the greatest happiness of the greatest number. It may be seen as selfish to disagree with the above statement, but Mill believed that the best strategy for maximizing overall happiness is to concentrate upon maximizing the happiness of those whose needs, goals, and aspirations you understand the best, your own and those people close to you. (Quinn, 315). Mill merely brought the idea of utility close to home. He transformed it into a more personal philosophy, whereby showing the importance of self-awareness and value of close friends and family. If everyone sought utility in this fashion the sum total of happiness would be maximized.