The Principle Of Utility

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In John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism, he describes and explains the principle of utility and its importance to morality. Mills also breaks down the difference between direct and indirect normative utilitarianism. Bernard William’s piece Critiques on Utilitarianism shows a different side of the idea providing a different valuable perspective. I will be exploring Mill’s view and relating his ideas to some of William’s critiques.

John Stuart Mill’s principle of utility provides us with a map to happiness. Mill’s speaks a lot of utility which means general well being or happiness. This principle of utility Mill’s mills speaks of is, also known as the First Principle or Greatest Happiness Principle. This principle means actions are right if they tend to promote happiness, and wrong if they tend to produce unhappiness. Unhappiness is pain and the lack of pleasure. This first principle says that when we perform good actions, we ultimately produce happiness.

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Mill makes an argument that the principle of utility is the first principle of morality. Morality tells us how we should act, this provides a guide to action, working to achieve a desired end goal. It is difficult to decide what is right and wrong so having a guide helps direct morality. Mill’s say’s that having such a foundation is fundamental for morality to have any legitimacy. This first principle leads toward moral progress. If happiness is the end goal of morality, moral action increases the amount of utility. Once happiness is recognized as the moral standard, natural attitude will nurture views that encourage utilitarianism.

In Bernard Williams A Critique of Utilitarianism he tells the hypothetical case of George the chemist who is in the midst of a moral dilemma.

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