Utilitarianism is one of those concepts that have been interpreted differently by many philosophers and scholars. However, the explanation and interpretation given by John Stuart Mill is one of the most interesting utilitarianism versions (Diken 165). In Mill’s thinking, an action is judged as good or bad, holy or evil based on the extent to which such an action yields happiness or pleasure. He further argues that something is good only if it brings about pleasure and reduces or completely eliminates pain. According to Mill, happiness is the vital intent of every human being. The argument brought forth by the proponents of the mill version of utilitarianism is that the key goal of every action in which man engages is to reap pleasure or minimize pain. Like-minded sociologists argue that the utility associated with such actions as going to work every day is to reap happiness. It is therefore, worth noting that in light of the Mill version of utilitarianism, the rich and the poor could both be happy and lead equally pleasurable lives depending on how they understand pleasure and pain. This paper seeks to explain a community, which is based on the provisions and principles of the utilitarianism as explained by Mill.
In his interpretation of utilitarianism, Mill says that an action is described as a bad or good depending on how much happiness that action brings (Diken 168). The scholar ignores the moral justification of the action. Hence, an act could be morally justified but justified if the ethics of society understood pleasure and ethics from the utilitarian point of view. This view, explained by Mill, makes such evil actions as murder ethically justifiable depending on their outcome. Hence, this implies that if the murder of a person yields happiness among other members of society, it is perfectly justified. If a person kills his neighbor for example to prevent such a neighbor from killing five other neighbors, the murder is justified as it makes the community happy. Similarly, if a person had to tell a lie so as to prevent twenty others from telling lies, then his or her lie if ethically justified according to John Stuart Mill. It is worth concluding that an action such as speaking the truth could be unacceptable. For instance, if telling a person the truth will cause such person and his or her family members to be unconscious or to faint in shock, then lying to the person could be a better idea as it minimizes suffering.
If a society was to operate and run by the principles and interpretations of John Stuart Mill, there would be anarchy and greedy capitalism (Tamburrini 17). The society would be an evil one considering that doing the wrong thing to gain happiness is easier than doing that which other people deem right. For instance, people would not hesitate to steal so as to get resources such as money to make them afford pleasurable things. Killing for instance would be rampant among the people. This is because one can kill his neighbor and steal millions of money which he may use in entertaining the rest of the community. Such aspects as moral decay could be at their peak in such a society. This is rather apparent, given that what people consider pleasurable are such things as recreational sex and orgies. People would engage in such acts oblivious of their negative impacts they would have on society. People would be stealing in a bid to gain happiness.
Mill’s society compared to our own
Comparing the above described society to our own is something that is logically impracticable in the sense that such a society cannot exist in the moral society that has passed on the values of morality from one generation to the next over the years. However, if it can be assumed that such a society existed or can potentially exist, it is worth noting that it would be less preferable to our own. Probably, in a society of such state, the evils would outweigh the good done by the members of the society (Hauskeller 432). This is because of the great and extreme capitalism that would run the society. This is to say that in such a society, such evils as killing and stealing that would otherwise be less justified in our society would be the norm. From John Stuart Mill's understanding, there is no clear parameter than can be employed in judging one thing as good or bad. He argues that as much as changes have taken place over the years in the definition of acts as good or bad. Even so, John Stuart Mill observes that the actions that have been described as good over the years have not changed. Perhaps, there is that makes a deed good or bad. This characteristic is what people have not explained.
In a society where pleasure and pain are the only principal determinants of the nature of something, people can be said to be animalistic and unrealistic. In our society for example, it is not justified to have sex in public, however much pleasure it may bring. On the contrary, a pleasure-motivated society can easily justify such immoral and animalistic acts. The fact that such a society would view pleasure as a first principle means that the society would ignore the ethics of an act (Diken 167). Such a society brings down the value of life to mere pleasure. Social scientists have always elucidated that there are more salient issues to life than just being happy. For instance, Mill's theory of pleasure and pain ignores so many factors. Consider this example: a person, say A kills his friend B and obtains his wealth, which he distributes to the poor members of the society. Such poor people will find pleasure in possessing the wealth. Person A will as well feel contented that he has helped the needy. However, the theory ignores the fact that person A may suffer too much psychological torture and mental agony occasioned by the haunting thoughts of killing a friend.
The thought-experiment view
A thought experiment view is a way or technique of assessing an act by focusing mainly on its results. This is not a fair way of testing John Stuart Mill's theory. Focusing on the outcome of the particular act forms the base of arguing whether or not an action is socially justified (Hauskeller 431). For example, this may mean that our ethical and legal systems embrace the idea of judging people depending on the results of their deeds. In this view, therefore, a person taken to a court of law for killing another person may use the argument that the killing brought more pleasure than pain to the society, in conducting is defense. This, in other words is to say that the jury is supposed to judge as innocent, a person who committed a crime in gaining the pleasure for themselves and society.
Mill argues that happiness is a function of our higher reasoning faculties. He explains that such pleasure cannot be perceived by the baser instincts of the human being (Hauskeller 430). In his studies, the scholar observed that it appeared distasteful for an individual to serve as a leader. However, it is found that members of the society felt better when they had a leader that could harmonize them and ensure cooperation among the populace. This means that the individual has to sacrifice their happiness to achieve the results of a happier society. This way of looking g at the result but ignoring the specific process, is particularly unjustified, since the means to achieving such results could be causing more destruction than good. Therefore, this is what brings about the idea of social cost-benefit analysis.
Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World"
Arguably, this is one of the literature works that have received much attention by the contemporary sociologists and philosophers. This literal work of Huxley’s, creates a picture of a society that is so much advanced technologically that they are actually manufacturing people. The fact that they are in a position to create human beings means that they can manipulate the conduct and structure of the humans. They have specialists dealing with each and every aspect of the process. For instance, there are emotion engineers who are responsible for manipulating the feelings of the created human beings. The society is set in a time six hundred years into the future. The society is explained as being one that embraces such acts as sexual immorality and related social evils.
Recreational sex and use of a hard drug referred to as Soma are the most common ways of attaining a pleasurable condition in the Brave World (Diken 161). The acts, which would be morally unjustified in the contemporary society, are what differentiate our society from that of Aldous Huxley's. In the technologically advanced society, the principles and ideologies of Mill are the basis of the social life. The literature work has been described as a warning to mankind. This is to say that if the society embraces Mill’s ideas of utilitarianism, the result will be a morally corrupted society where the sober minded people are segregated and seen a being weird. In the new world, headed and led by one Mustapha Mond, such sober minded people such as John seek refuge in segregated areas where they will not have to experience and observe orgies of recreational sex and abuse of drugs. Towards the end of the book, John commits suicide upon realizing that he had, out of intoxication, engaged in the immorality that he had condemned. This is a clear indication that if the society was to operate by the principles of the Mill idea of utilitarianism, some people would develop suicidal thinking for having gone through so much pressure and stress. This again is a warning to humanity that the idea is not socially upright since in such a world, such natural processes as birth and death would appear horrible and scary. Evil would exceed good in this society.
Diken, Bulent. Huxley's Brave New World - And Ours. Journal for Cultural Research. 15(2), P153-172: 2011
Hauskeller, Michael. No Philosophy for Swine: John Stuart Mill on the Quality of Pleasures. Utilitas. 23(4), P428-446: 2011
Tamburrini, Claudio. What's Wrong With J.S. Mill's "Harm-To-Others"-Principle? Journal of the Philosophy of Sport. 38(1), P1-26: 2011