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Book Jungle provides classic literature in a modern format. Thousands of historical titles are now readily available to the public. Because of the original condition of many of these historical manuscripts, imperfections are possible. The value of these manuscripts lies in their historical significance and vivid accounts of the world from thousands of authors and storytell Book Jungle provides classic literature in a modern format. Thousands of historical titles are now readily available to the public. Because of the original condition of many of these historical manuscripts, imperfections are possible. The value of these manuscripts lies in their historical significance and vivid accounts of the world from thousands of authors and storytellers. Book Jungle is proud to bring these rare volumes back into public use and to make them availableto everyone.

30 review for Utilitarianism (eBook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill's book Utilitarianism is a classic exposition and defence of utilitarianism in ethics. The essay first appeared as a series of three articles published in Fraser's Magazine in 1861; the articles were collected and reprinted as a single book in 1863. Mill's aim in the book is to explain what utilitarianism is, to show why it is the best theory of ethics, and to defend it against a wide range of criticisms and misunderstandings. Though heavily criti Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill's book Utilitarianism is a classic exposition and defence of utilitarianism in ethics. The essay first appeared as a series of three articles published in Fraser's Magazine in 1861; the articles were collected and reprinted as a single book in 1863. Mill's aim in the book is to explain what utilitarianism is, to show why it is the best theory of ethics, and to defend it against a wide range of criticisms and misunderstandings. Though heavily criticized both in Mill's lifetime and in the years since, Utilitarianism did a great deal to popularize utilitarian ethics and has been considered "the most influential philosophical articulation of a liberal humanistic morality that was produced in the nineteenth century." تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و نهم ماه می سال 2011 میلادی عنوان: فایده گرایی؛ نویسنده: جان استوارت میل؛ مترجم: مرتضی مردیها؛ تهران، نشر نی، 1388؛ در 262 ص؛ شابک: 9789641850809؛ چاپ دوم 1390؛ چاپ سوم 1392؛ واژه نامه، کتابنامه از ص 257 تا ص 258؛ موضوع: فایده گرایی - از نویسندگان بریتانیایی - سده 19 م فایده‌ گرایی یا «منفعت گرایی» نظریه‌ ای ست، در باره ی مبانی اخلاق، و فراتر از آن، حوزه‌ هایی همچون فلسفه ی سیاست، و حقوق را نیز در بر می‌گیرد. «جان استوارت میل»، برجسته‌ ترین مدافع فایده‌ گرایی، در این کتاب می‌کوشند، خوانشگران را نسبت به راستی و درستی و کارسازی این نظریه، باورمند کنند. ا. شربیانی

  2. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question." - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism I remember reading bits of Mill's Utilitarianism during a course of political philosophy and public policy when I was in college (my major almost 20 years ago was public policy). I have always been attracted to the b "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question." - John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism I remember reading bits of Mill's Utilitarianism during a course of political philosophy and public policy when I was in college (my major almost 20 years ago was public policy). I have always been attracted to the basics of Mill's Utilitarianism and William's Pragmatism. Thus, may I disagree with Ferris Bueller. I do believe in isms. Anyway, I hadn't touched Mill in quite awhile (6 years) and figured it was probably time to dust off some of those foundational Western political philosophers. Who knows, we all may be rebuilding a Republic soon.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ben Labe

    Here, Mill offers a thorough description and defense of his moral theory, proposing the greatest happiness ("utilitarian") principle as the unique first principle underlying all moral conduct. "The 'greatest happiness principle' holds that actions are right in proportion as they promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness," he argues. Happiness, Mill defines as "pleasure itself, together with exemption from pain." While this definition seems dubious at first, Mill d Here, Mill offers a thorough description and defense of his moral theory, proposing the greatest happiness ("utilitarian") principle as the unique first principle underlying all moral conduct. "The 'greatest happiness principle' holds that actions are right in proportion as they promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness," he argues. Happiness, Mill defines as "pleasure itself, together with exemption from pain." While this definition seems dubious at first, Mill demonstrates it to be very robust in its sweep, inventing novel arguments to distinguish between elevated and base pleasures (to Mill, ignorance is anything but bliss) and cleverly subsuming other ends under the banner of the "ultimate" one that he has proposed. That happiness is indeed the ultimate end he infers empirically (rightly admitting the futility of rigorously proving one's first principles). Eventually, Mill proceeds with a discussion of justice and its connection to utility. Not only does he show the primacy of the utilitarian principle over a justice principle in terms of its scope, but he demonstrates how it is capable of resolving disputes over justice. In so doing, he produces two extremely useful examples regarding distributive justice in the field of economics, resulting in the book's very best chapter. All in all, decent philosophy, but very poor style.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

    In times of building walls and talk of re-foundation of the Republicanism (in many of the Republics of the early 21st Century), and a looming fourth revolution, whereby workers won't be as much exploited (as Marx would have it) but rather ignored and a pariah to the process of wealth creation, it is important to return to the basics. And in law, John Stuart Mill is well and truly part of the basics! John Stuart Mill who is the son of (and tutored by) John Mill and Godson to Jeremy Bentham (who w In times of building walls and talk of re-foundation of the Republicanism (in many of the Republics of the early 21st Century), and a looming fourth revolution, whereby workers won't be as much exploited (as Marx would have it) but rather ignored and a pariah to the process of wealth creation, it is important to return to the basics. And in law, John Stuart Mill is well and truly part of the basics! John Stuart Mill who is the son of (and tutored by) John Mill and Godson to Jeremy Bentham (who was also his mentor) has produced a tour the force in this short book in which he presents the defence of his moral theory in accordance with utilitarianism. In short, he says that: "those who know anything about the matter are aware that every writer from Epicurus to Bentham who maintained the theory of 'utility' meant by it not something to be contrasted with pleasure but pleasure itself together with freedom from pain" and ' The doctrine that the basis of morals is utility or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right as they tend to promote happiness, wrong in the proportion as they tend to promote the reverse of happiness. By 'happiness' is meant pleasure and the absence of pain; By 'unhappiness' is meant pain and the lack of pleasure.(..)' Catching a gap in Bentham's theory, Mill asserted that there are lower and higher forms of pleasure. And he makes it clear when he says: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; Better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied(..)' all of which means that more base human needs and pleasures (food, sex et. al) are not necessarily the whole story when it comes to human flourishing. Sapiens need also advancing towards intellectual inquiry and achievements and arts contemplation and production for example. This is a powerful insight into our highly technological societies, in that perhaps our future won't be in work (since the world of work seems an ever-dwindling enterprise cf. worldwide share of surplus workers for example). But on Mill's higher - or more valuable - human pleasures. This could well be the way of our future in the XXI Century. Just look at the latest Davos' reports! Mill provided us with a large list of valuable endeavours, that are obtainable through the cultivation of the mind: objects of nature, the achievements of art, the imaginations of poetry, the incidents of history, human events in the past and present as well as their prospects in the future' are some mentions worth highlighting. While Mill admits that self-sacrifice is not necessarily the way of utilitarians (unless it is done to increase the happiness of others) he accepts the Christian golden rule as the most acceptable form of utilitarianism. He goes on to discuss the criticisms the Utilitarian theory received and affirms that for utilitarians virtue is possibly an end ( as some see virtue as happiness). Indeed he posits that: "The desire for virtue differs from the love of money, of power, of fame, in this: •those three can and often do make the person •noxious to the other members of the society to which he belongs, whereas the disinterested •love of virtue makes him a •blessing to them—nothing more so! And so the utilitarian standard, while it tolerates and approves those other acquired desires •up to the point beyond which they would do more harm than good to the general happiness, demands the cultivation of the love of virtue •up to the greatest strength possible because it is more important than anything else to the general happiness." The fifth chapter analyses the relationship between utility and justice. Here he provided a survey of many ideas current at the time, about the distinction of justice and other fields of the moral utilitarian thesis. He goes on to consider punishment, wages, taxation in turn. I am especially impressed with his discussion in redistributive justice. Very contemporary indeed for an 18th Century work. In all, this is a very thorough study of the utilitarian moral thesis and John Stuart Mill deserves the acclaim he has attained. Must be considered by anyone reading in this philosophical area. 4/5 stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Peter Mcloughlin

    For such an important work it is certainly short and sweet. Utilitarianism is an important ethical philosophy. The hedonic calculus is probably a big factor for policy wonks of most modern states (at least when they are functioning well). I certainly think in terms of public policy utilitarianism has a lot of advantages. Greatest good for the greatest number is a fairly good guide for running a liberal democracy. I think John Rawls in the 1970 improved things with the original position in his so For such an important work it is certainly short and sweet. Utilitarianism is an important ethical philosophy. The hedonic calculus is probably a big factor for policy wonks of most modern states (at least when they are functioning well). I certainly think in terms of public policy utilitarianism has a lot of advantages. Greatest good for the greatest number is a fairly good guide for running a liberal democracy. I think John Rawls in the 1970 improved things with the original position in his social contract theory is superior to straight up utilitarianism but as a first stab at building a just society if one squints utilitarianism is a good guide. I think it is less useful as a guide for and individual but fine for public policy.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Mill writes about Utilitarianism. If you've read any modern take on this ethical system, there's nothing new here. The first chapter is very long and boring - I guess back in Mill's time he needed to justify Utilitarianism over other ethical systems like the Christian Bible pleas - now we, probably due to Mill, Utilitarianism is a completely understandable concept and doesn't really need to be defending in contrast to religious morals. The rest of the book is fun, and Mill shows his passion for Mill writes about Utilitarianism. If you've read any modern take on this ethical system, there's nothing new here. The first chapter is very long and boring - I guess back in Mill's time he needed to justify Utilitarianism over other ethical systems like the Christian Bible pleas - now we, probably due to Mill, Utilitarianism is a completely understandable concept and doesn't really need to be defending in contrast to religious morals. The rest of the book is fun, and Mill shows his passion for the subject. It was fun to read his responses to various objections, objections that people still voice today (like how utilitarianism doesn't respect the individual, in favour of the greater good). Its strange that Mill tied in his responses in the book yet people still voice them with blissful disregard to the fact that Mill had plausible responses already lined up. I'd recommend this book to anybody getting into ethical studies. Its an important work that has become a part of our social unconscious.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    The greatest proponent of utilitarianism in modern memory is Dr. Spock of Star Trek fame. The fact that an essay written in the 1860s is still having an impact on contemporary culture speaks to the longevity of J.S. Mill's idea. It has fueled countless debates among students in philosophy classes, and in the general public. The Greatest Happiness Principle is certainly worthy of consideration, and Mill's treatise has probably figured into many people's calculations when weighing momentous life d The greatest proponent of utilitarianism in modern memory is Dr. Spock of Star Trek fame. The fact that an essay written in the 1860s is still having an impact on contemporary culture speaks to the longevity of J.S. Mill's idea. It has fueled countless debates among students in philosophy classes, and in the general public. The Greatest Happiness Principle is certainly worthy of consideration, and Mill's treatise has probably figured into many people's calculations when weighing momentous life decisions.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Amy Armstrong

    Okay, I'm not sure what to say about this. It's like milk; it's good for you, but can leave you bloated and gassy and the cover is totally uninspiring. Most of the writing is equally uninspiring. I recommend 2 minutes of Utilitarianism followed by 20 minutes of Googling gossipy facts about Mill.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mohammed Al-Garawi

    Before I start talking about utilitarianism, let me tell you one thing or two about the philosopher who wrote this book. John Stewart Mill was the son of the 17th century British philosopher James mill. And by taking full control of his son's educations and keeping him from associating with children of his own age, James Mill produced a prodigy who was said to have started learning Greek at three and Latin at seven. By the age of twelve young Mill was a competent logician, by sixteen a skilled ec Before I start talking about utilitarianism, let me tell you one thing or two about the philosopher who wrote this book. John Stewart Mill was the son of the 17th century British philosopher James mill. And by taking full control of his son's educations and keeping him from associating with children of his own age, James Mill produced a prodigy who was said to have started learning Greek at three and Latin at seven. By the age of twelve young Mill was a competent logician, by sixteen a skilled economist- and at twenty he had a nervous breakdown. Public education my ass. Now that you've had a glimpse of Mill's background, here's the definition of utilitarianism: a theory in normative ethics holding that the proper course of action is the one that maximizes utility, usually defined as maximizing happiness and reducing suffering. In other words, the morality of an action is judged by how much happiness it produces and how much suffering it reduces. Classic utilitarianism is very similar to, if not a branch of consequentialism (defining the moral justice of an action by its consequences). In this book, Mill defines utilitarianism, defends it, and gives his opinion I how to apply it and enhance its applications in real life. He also presents his theory of natural rights and democracy. All in all, this is a shot, yet a very dense read. I definitely recommend it to those who are interested in moral philosophy.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill is one tough book to read. But, if one understands it, it does prove to be interesting. Simply put, Mill explains that there is no basis for morality: what is good and what is bad. Utilitarianism is an idea that moral worth of an action is determined by the usefulness of it. People never settle for less. No one would like to be a happy animal. As Mill words it, "It is better to be an unsatisfied Socrates, than a satisfiel fool." Major themes in the book include Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill is one tough book to read. But, if one understands it, it does prove to be interesting. Simply put, Mill explains that there is no basis for morality: what is good and what is bad. Utilitarianism is an idea that moral worth of an action is determined by the usefulness of it. People never settle for less. No one would like to be a happy animal. As Mill words it, "It is better to be an unsatisfied Socrates, than a satisfiel fool." Major themes in the book included happiness, desires, and utility. Unjust laws do exist. This clashes with the theory of justice. Removal of justice would hurt society in the beginning, but, as Mill says, people would eventually learn in the end and peace would exist. If someone threatens your happiness you punish them. That's how Mill envisions justice. Whatever leads you to happiness is good, and that's what the book pretty much states. I feel there's a little hint of Machiavelli in the text. The idea that "the end justifies the means" is one danger I see that utilitarianism may turn into.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    People who've studied philosophy are, IMO, the most interesting people with whom to share conversation. There's a kind of elegance about the way they put a case for an idea, and I like the way that while are open to dissenting opinions, they can demolish them in style. Mills shows how it's done. Here and there he pours a little scorn, but mostly it's a classically intelligent, coherent, logical argument for the principle that when trying to decide on a course of action, one should choose the pos People who've studied philosophy are, IMO, the most interesting people with whom to share conversation. There's a kind of elegance about the way they put a case for an idea, and I like the way that while are open to dissenting opinions, they can demolish them in style. Mills shows how it's done. Here and there he pours a little scorn, but mostly it's a classically intelligent, coherent, logical argument for the principle that when trying to decide on a course of action, one should choose the position that brings happiness to the greatest number of people. 8/10 for utilitarianism; 1/10 for applying it to capital punishment.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    By simple definition: utilitarianism - a doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or benefit a majority... this can be compared to that which is considered epicurean...

  13. 5 out of 5

    Vamsi Krishna kv

    JS Mill ventures into the troubled waters of moral philosophy where very few have dared to tread in, to the shaky foundations of justice and tries to fortify it with his elegant principle of utility. Though he isn't the first one to propound the principle of utility, his meticulous efforts for laying it down with such clarity are much laudable

  14. 4 out of 5

    Tyler

    The last chapter saved this book from a one-star rating. While it's still wrong in a whole, I believe that Mill makes very small but important points throughout the book. For instance, he realizes that equality, with a government, requires inequality because some have more power than others (i.e. the people in government). Overall, though, his "proof" of utilitarianism is weak. His analysis of other ethical theories are very topical and not in-depth. And lastly, the most annoying thing about thi The last chapter saved this book from a one-star rating. While it's still wrong in a whole, I believe that Mill makes very small but important points throughout the book. For instance, he realizes that equality, with a government, requires inequality because some have more power than others (i.e. the people in government). Overall, though, his "proof" of utilitarianism is weak. His analysis of other ethical theories are very topical and not in-depth. And lastly, the most annoying thing about this book; WAY too many damn commas and extra thoughts in the middle of a sentence. What looks like a paragraph sometimes turns into one sentence with commas and semi-colons. The chapter on justice saves it a little bit but he doesn't seem to offer any solutions. For instance, he points out that we could possibly blame somebody for something they didn't do or we could NOT do that, which is more just? Well, Mill says it could go either way which this is completely counter-intuitive. He also says that a person deserves to keep his money, the rich specifically, because it brings more utility. His biggest arguments are his weakest yet very subtle and intelligent points come out mixed with those big arguments.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Smith

    This book is short but very challenging. I would suggest reading it over and over again until you have the "Eureka!" moment that will be life changing. It took me 7 reads to feel like I really got the gist of what John Stuart Mills was trying to express on ethics and happiness. In the end, I didn't agree with everything he thought but it touched me and I still think about it years later. Now that's what I call a successful book!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Benjamin

    If you have utter antipathy toward Utilitarianism or consider it an impracticable or vague theory, you probably just need to read the work. Mill describes much more than the simplistic, mathematical view often attributed to him. I would venture that perhaps no other moral theory would better align with the general public's sentiment than Mill's. This is not to endorse the theory--I am not a utilitarian--but it is to say it is worth consideration, and definitely worth a careful read.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lindsey

    An interesting philosophy, and one of the most important informers of today's morality. It's surprising how much we refer to the ideas in the book, without even thinking about it. So many parts of public policy are grounded in it, from social welfare to cost-benefit analysis. It was really great to read the book and get more of an understanding about where we are today and where we came from.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Bertsch

    The philosophy is solid, but Mill spends too many words defending it (admittedly probably quite necessary at that time.) I would have been interested in seeing more about how he saw it being applied.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Karl Hallbjörnsson

    a moral theory written by a bourgeois political economist. conceptually from bentham. i dunno - not my fave. *update, second read* its shit

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gav451

    Like a slightly smug and self righteous hipster wannabe I thought it would nice to read a philosophical classic, looking intellectually into the middle distance every now and again and making interested and thoughtful 'hmmmmmm' noises as I stroked my chin. What I needed were some cords, a pipe and a thick knit cardigan to really transition into a pseudeo-intellectual. Its a short book as well so as far as I was concerned it was a win win. Finish quickly; be wise; bish bosh and back to the rubbish Like a slightly smug and self righteous hipster wannabe I thought it would nice to read a philosophical classic, looking intellectually into the middle distance every now and again and making interested and thoughtful 'hmmmmmm' noises as I stroked my chin. What I needed were some cords, a pipe and a thick knit cardigan to really transition into a pseudeo-intellectual. Its a short book as well so as far as I was concerned it was a win win. Finish quickly; be wise; bish bosh and back to the rubbish. In my mind my transition into a much wiser Gav was nearly complete. I did not factor in the following:- - I'm getting on a bit - After 10 hours at work I tend to be a bit tired. - The writing is thick and complex and very nuanced. This is not a light read, its not a train read and its not a fun filled page turner. There were sentences that were so long and thick and twisty turny that as I approached the end of them I had forgotten where they began. There were many good and interesting points but they were so knowingly clever that they were not landing as well as they should have been. The 2 stars here refers to my failure as a reader as opposed to the failure of the book. The stars reflect my engagement with it. I did finish the book and that was by no means a given. I might try and read a different philosopher at some point as you can get them free for you kindle but really I need to win a shed load of money, do a philosophy course and study books like these. That's my dream, its unlikely to happen any time soon.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Otto Lehto

    Mill's essay is a rambling thing of some beauty and of unquestionable merit. Utiliarianism of his mentor Bentham is richly espoused and its principles defended. Mill's version of the doctrine shows a kind of post-Enlightenment rationalist culmination of the long line of British sentimentalist moralists (Locke, Hume) and their synthesis with the principles of industrial design: calculations of utility are offered to replace the wishy-washy "feelgood" of more pastoral writers of the 17th Century. B Mill's essay is a rambling thing of some beauty and of unquestionable merit. Utiliarianism of his mentor Bentham is richly espoused and its principles defended. Mill's version of the doctrine shows a kind of post-Enlightenment rationalist culmination of the long line of British sentimentalist moralists (Locke, Hume) and their synthesis with the principles of industrial design: calculations of utility are offered to replace the wishy-washy "feelgood" of more pastoral writers of the 17th Century. But the principle remains the same: the good is that which we desire is that which induces pleasure. So far so good. Utilitarianism rests on two common premises which it did not invent but inherited: 1) that pleasure is the end of all action. 2) that all men are created equal (-ly capable and worthy of it). It deduced from these earlier premises the fruitful but somewhat megalomaniac conclusion, its Major Premise, i.e. the famous utilitarian maxim: 3) that action is good which tends to produce the greatest overall level of happiness for the greatest number. From this all else follows: human actions, social institutions, laws, ALL need to serve the Happiness Principle. In line with many other optimistic, progressive thinkers of his time (of whom he mentions with fawning adulation the father of positivism, A.Comte), Mill believed in the perfectibility of man. Social institutions are more or less worthy based on their effect on total human happiness. The child, for him, is pretty much a blank slate to be educated and socialized according to utilitarian design. He is also a champion of a kind of moral reductionism, close to relativism, whereby virtue and justice (et al) are relegated to the courtiers of the One Principle of happiness/interest/utility (all of which he uses interchangeably). There is a lot to criticize here, from the unwarranted optimism and the reductionistic megalomania to the slightly elitist top-down "managerial" approach to morality. Good intentions and rationalist hubris can lead astray. But there is a lot to admire, as well. He was one of the first to notice the historical development (onward march) of moral notions from the rationalization of gross injustice (i.e. pain-inducing actions and laws) to the redefinition of laws to maximize utility for everybody. He saw their proper aim of moral development to be the enlargement of the scope of happiness to all sentient beings. Peter Singer owes his fruitful career to Mill. The Great Apes are thankful. Mill was also a greatly flexible thinker, which more doctrinaire minds will probably find fault at. In line with his liberal ideas of tolerance, he saw everything as worthy of questioning. To be able to compare (policies, actions, laws) according to an "objective" standard is, 1) certainly a worthy goal, 2) an improvement over the divine revelation, unfounded intuitionism and sentimental grunts that usually pass for moral arguments, 3) a fruitful endeavour and an open-ended process that is capable of true moral improvement and progress. After all, utilitarianism has already opened a million can-of-worms (like animal rights, euthanasia, penal policy). An ends-based approach leaves the field open for an infinity of means. Such morality is essentially pluralistic. It is the strange admixture of moral flexibility (i.e. open-mindedness) and an appeal to universal principles (i.e. faith in the happiness principle) that marks Mill's social liberalism a unique blend of inherited Lockean individualism and acquired budding utopian socialism. There are many faults with the doctrine of utilitarianism, but this book is not one of them. Despite the unsatisfactorily hazy nature of the implications of the doctrine (what does it say about specific policies? How DOES one go about comparing utilities? Who does the counting?), or perhaps precisely because of it, Mill's version of utilitarianism has continued to fascinate thinkers looking for a good challenge and a bit of faith in humanity. Essential reading, absolutely. Mill, for all truth-seekers, is a co-conspirator in the breaking of all taboos. Such philosophy has awesome real-life implications.

  22. 5 out of 5

    thethousanderclub

    What can I say about a book like Utilitarianism? It's a book or treatise only a few will ever read. Normally devoured and debated by full time academics, I'm one of the odd folks who reads a treatise like Utilitarianism for pleasure and my own person gratification. John Stuart Mill's intellectual work can easily be compared to similar works like Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, John Locke's Two Treatises of Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration, and of course Mill' What can I say about a book like Utilitarianism? It's a book or treatise only a few will ever read. Normally devoured and debated by full time academics, I'm one of the odd folks who reads a treatise like Utilitarianism for pleasure and my own person gratification. John Stuart Mill's intellectual work can easily be compared to similar works like Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, John Locke's Two Treatises of Government and a Letter Concerning Toleration, and of course Mill's other work, which I enjoyed quite a bit more than Utilitarianism, On Liberty. It's a foundational work, and it deserves a thorough and thoughtful study because it contributes so meaningfully to any conversation regarding morals, ethics, and justice. In order to read a treatise like Utilitarianism the reader has to understand the usual method and mode by which these are written. As I have read more and more of these political, philosophical, and ideological explorations, I have seen them more and more in a modern context. In other words, they were the discussion boards and online debates before our world was so interconnected by the internet and the various social sites that link us all together (pun intended). Often the writers of these intellectual works are responding directly to a critic, but it feels as if they're writing into a vacuum. (Locke's first treatise of government feels especially vacuous). When we think of asynchronous communication now we think of emails going back and forth between senders and receivers. But even that could occur within a few days, hours, or minutes. During Mill's time a debate could extend for decades between disputants--one treatise at a time. Having said all of that, Utilitarianism is an enjoyable and challenging read, as well as being somewhat arcane, as one would expect. Like many of the other works of this nature, it is very easy for a modern reader to get lost in the prose. The extremely long sentences which deal with multiple complex ideas and the lack of paragraph breaks or other reading cues that we're now familiar with. In addition, you might wonder where Mills or other writers like him are heading or what point they're trying to make among all of their logical contortions. One has to admire a mind like Mills and his ability to see the world from a different and more conceptual perspective than most of us can. A book like Utilitarianism is important because it informs our assumptions and our a priori convictions. We take for granted that certain knowledge, mostly accepted by Western civilization, wasn't so accepted several hundred years ago. Mill, along with other thinkers like him, helped push our understanding forward into, hopefully, a more enlightened state. Utilitarianism is well worth a read if you already have a decent knowledge regarding the topics being discussed in the treatise. If not, it will be an especially difficult slog. Furthermore, if you're looking for a work from Mill to read, I would recommend his On Liberty much more readily than I would Utilitarianism. Notable Quotes: "Mankind are always predisposed to believe that any subjective feeling...is a revelation of some objective reality" "That a feeling is bestowed on us by Nature, does not necessarily legitimate all its promptings." "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied." http://thethousanderclub.blogspot.com/

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brandon

    Mill inherited the mantle of Utilitarianism from his father, James Mill, and his godfather, Jeremy Bentham. Though he was schooled in it from a young age, in his later writing life he became no mere parrot of his forefathers' theories -- he critiqued, extended, and improved them. Mill saw a fundamental flaw in Bentham's Utilitarianism: if what we must aim for is the greatest happiness of the greatest number, then this condition can be satisfied if the majority of society are sated and made happy Mill inherited the mantle of Utilitarianism from his father, James Mill, and his godfather, Jeremy Bentham. Though he was schooled in it from a young age, in his later writing life he became no mere parrot of his forefathers' theories -- he critiqued, extended, and improved them. Mill saw a fundamental flaw in Bentham's Utilitarianism: if what we must aim for is the greatest happiness of the greatest number, then this condition can be satisfied if the majority of society are sated and made happy by rather base pleasures -- food, sex, and so on. But for Mill this prospect did not seem to live up to the idea of human flourishing. So he came up with what is known as the 'hierarchy of pleasures', summed up by the epigram "It is better to be Socrates disatisfied than a Fool satisfied." That is, there are 'higher pleasures', such as intellectual contemplation or artistic creation, which are in some sense 'worth more' than baser pleasures like food, drink, and sex. Though the lower pleasures are still pleasurable (and still Good in their own way), aspiring to a life filled with the higher pleasures makes one better off, even if you don't achieve them. The frustrating aspect of this is that it seems like it should be right, but it also doesn't seem like he has a good argument to say why these higher pleasures are actually better than the lower ones; because he is a Utilitarian, all he has to appeal to to judge them is their utility, i.e. their ability to create happiness or pleasure. This does not seem to allow him to argue for a qualitative difference in pleasures as opposed to a merely quantitative weighing of what brings a particular individual the most happiness. And on that basis, someone who enjoys a lot of delicious food and great sex but has never read a book or thought about anything in any depth with, according to the Greatest Happiness Principle, be living a much better life than a frustrated philosopher or artist. So though I think Mill is right about this, it also exposes a flaw in Utilitarian thinking. Nonetheless, as I noted in my review of On Liberty the Utilitarian idea that public policy and the public good ought to be directed at making the greatest number of people as well off as they can be was a revolutionary idea. They forcefully pointed out that very often following particular "rules" of organization or structure were liable to create misery and suffering, even though these "rules" were seen to be the "right thing to do". That the public good should be beholden firstly to the achieving the best lot for the most people that we can seems so obvious to us now, but only because we had thinkers and writers (and politicians -- let us not forget Mill was an MP for four years) like Mill to thank for that. And, as I also noted in my other review, I have Mill to thank for decisively shaping my early intellectual development.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Brian Powell

    It's pretty hard to disagree with a moral system based on the greatest good for the greatest number, and Mill argues his case passionately. That said, I'm not quite ready to assail an innocent man in a hospital waiting room so that his organs might be harvested to save the lives a few wanting people in the ICU. Consequentalist moral systems seem to suffer from a formidable complication regarding foresight, or the ability of people to understand the ramifications of their actions a priori. Mill a It's pretty hard to disagree with a moral system based on the greatest good for the greatest number, and Mill argues his case passionately. That said, I'm not quite ready to assail an innocent man in a hospital waiting room so that his organs might be harvested to save the lives a few wanting people in the ICU. Consequentalist moral systems seem to suffer from a formidable complication regarding foresight, or the ability of people to understand the ramifications of their actions a priori. Mill argues that the actual consequences of our actions are immaterial -- that it's the intent that ultimately matters (the example Mill uses of a person saving another person from drowning just so that might kill him later is quaint, if not a little irrelevant.) My concern is that moral agents acting according to Mill's utilitarianism must have a highly sophisticated ethical calculus by which they determine and weigh how the costs and benefits of each of their actions square with the accounting of the greater good. Two men in their nineties are drowning and a gifted 12-year-old is being lowered into a shark tank -- What do we do? We can't know a priori the consequences of either action. So what principle do we apply? An accounting in lives is simple enough, but it is untrue that more saved lives implies a greater good for a greater number (the 12-year-old could end up inventing the cure for leukemia, and the two ninety-somethings might die the next day anyway). Exactly how the well-being of individuals translates into the greater good of society is not addressed by Mill, and seems a difficulty for consequentialism in general. It's not that utilitarianism is misguided -- it isn't. My point is that there is much information that must be taken into account before we even begin to understand how our actions might affect the greater good, even if we had a calculus for making this determination, which we might or might not. And even if we had this information and this calculus, we can't know all the ramifications, and of course it further depends on the time scale across which these consequences are applied -- days, years, centuries (which might be part of our calculus, but maybe not). So, I get it -- you make the best decision you can, given your life experience, that you believe improves the fitness of the most people. And you'd probably succeed in actually doing this maybe 20% of the time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    During the first semester at Loyola University Chicago I enrolled in David Ozar's Ethics Survey course. Treated in that class was Natural Law Ethics, Deontology and Utilitarianism. Having never taken an ethics course before, I found the class and its readings quite interesting. I also found one of the presumptions apparently held by all the ethicists we read objectionable. What I found questionable was as regards the matter of agency. Previous study of cultural anthropology, psychology and religi During the first semester at Loyola University Chicago I enrolled in David Ozar's Ethics Survey course. Treated in that class was Natural Law Ethics, Deontology and Utilitarianism. Having never taken an ethics course before, I found the class and its readings quite interesting. I also found one of the presumptions apparently held by all the ethicists we read objectionable. What I found questionable was as regards the matter of agency. Previous study of cultural anthropology, psychology and religion had problematized the notion for me. Psychologists commonly described cases of fragmented or multiple agency. Religions commonly assigned various identities to the motivating factors behind the behaviors of some persons. Cultural anthropologists commonly described peoples who held to notions of collective agency. How could it be then that philosophers could so blithely treat human biological entities as correspondent to individual ethical agents? Some back argument seemed necessary, an argument I recalled suggested by Origen in his De Principiis, wherein is stated that Christians are of monotheistic belief in order that their souls might become one. Representative of Utilitarianism for this class were Jeremy Bentham--for the simplest, hedonic version--and John Stuart Mill, neither of whom dealt at all with the problem of agency, both of whom, however, were quite clear in detailing an ethical programme for individuals of sound mind. This critical edition of Mill's Utilitarianism has excellent notes and commentary.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brent McCulley

    Again, Mill is so fascinating to read, but his ethical theory is so flimsy, cumbersome, and ungrounded, that it ultimately self-destructs on itself. Utilitarianism as a concept is so arbitrary, that although it was probably a new fascinating ethical theory during Mill's time, it has almost altogether been abandoned by philosophers of ethics today. Who determines what the "good" is for society? What happens with the ultimate good - in order to achieve chief happiness for the greatest amount of peo Again, Mill is so fascinating to read, but his ethical theory is so flimsy, cumbersome, and ungrounded, that it ultimately self-destructs on itself. Utilitarianism as a concept is so arbitrary, that although it was probably a new fascinating ethical theory during Mill's time, it has almost altogether been abandoned by philosophers of ethics today. Who determines what the "good" is for society? What happens with the ultimate good - in order to achieve chief happiness for the greatest amount of people - results in the moral command of committing heinous acts like rape, incest, torture, or murder? Moreover, how do we determine if the greatest happiness is to be achieved, if by merely avoiding pain in an Epicurian sense, we actually we actually deter a pathway that would have brought amount the greatest amount of good for the society in the future unbeknownst to us? Mill raises serious questions that are still being wrestled with today. All in all, a great read for any student of ethics of philosophy. This will challenge you and make help you formulate your own theory - whether in agreement or disagreement with Mill - of ethics. Brent McCulley

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nguyễn Trung

    For a long time I have maintained that personal happiness is the ultimate end, or at least ultimate pursuit, of human life, and that every thought and action of human is but a means to achieve that end. This book by Mill not only affirmed my personal belief, but also provided excellent reasoning to back it up and refute various common objections. So good and complete was Mill's idea and reasoning that I felt a sense of defeat for my own idea's lack of originality and concrete foundation. That sai For a long time I have maintained that personal happiness is the ultimate end, or at least ultimate pursuit, of human life, and that every thought and action of human is but a means to achieve that end. This book by Mill not only affirmed my personal belief, but also provided excellent reasoning to back it up and refute various common objections. So good and complete was Mill's idea and reasoning that I felt a sense of defeat for my own idea's lack of originality and concrete foundation. That said, Mill's English was, to a modern non-native English speaker, a bit too archaic, that is to say, overly complicated, and so it sometimes got into the way of comprehension. Particularly, from time to time I had a hard time making out what concept or character in the current context that a specific pronoun was being used to refer to. I would recommend reading this book during the early hours of a weekend day, when the mind is clear and healthy, because it did make a difference for me. But don't make any mistake: this is a great book. Readability was just not among its virtues.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mario

    This is about as dry as a box of century-old Saltines, but it does contain interesting ideas, if poorly and inelegantly expressed. I think Mill's basic stumbling block is in the transition between the rights and morals of an individual and the good of a society. He tries multiple times to make the connection, but he never manages to pull it off seamlessly. I got the feeling that even he didn't actually believe in the idea he was expressing on that point, only that the transition was necessary fo This is about as dry as a box of century-old Saltines, but it does contain interesting ideas, if poorly and inelegantly expressed. I think Mill's basic stumbling block is in the transition between the rights and morals of an individual and the good of a society. He tries multiple times to make the connection, but he never manages to pull it off seamlessly. I got the feeling that even he didn't actually believe in the idea he was expressing on that point, only that the transition was necessary for the principle, and he was wedded to the principle. In a way, it's almost like the entire philosophy suffers from the fallacy of composition, or maybe a moral version of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem -- you cannot simultaneously create a moral system that satisfies the rights of individuals separately and the community as a whole. Utilitarianism, as Mill describes it, is only triumphant so long as he is not compelled to take into account any other maxims of justice than the one he has selected, or so it seems to me.

  29. 4 out of 5

    K

    Having read this I'm not sure what kind of utilitarianism Mill advocates (that is, if he is a utilitarian after all), I'm not sure whether his naturalism is consistent, I'm not sure if his proof of utilitarianism is any good, I'm not sure whether he takes justice seriously, and, finally, I'm not sure whether Mill himself understood what he was really saying. Nevertheless, Utilitarianism's greatest strength is the author's inability to competently answer the questions he poses to the reader. It is Having read this I'm not sure what kind of utilitarianism Mill advocates (that is, if he is a utilitarian after all), I'm not sure whether his naturalism is consistent, I'm not sure if his proof of utilitarianism is any good, I'm not sure whether he takes justice seriously, and, finally, I'm not sure whether Mill himself understood what he was really saying. Nevertheless, Utilitarianism's greatest strength is the author's inability to competently answer the questions he poses to the reader. It is as confusing as it is rewarding. And the main reason for this is the nature of its subject matter. Moral theory requires of us to find answers to some of the most difficult questions. What is good? What is the right thing to do? Is moral knowledge possible? If yes, how so?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    Not as much insight as I was expecting especially since he's most known for his Utilitarianism. The book is really a defense of Utilitarianism against critics and less of a description of it as a system. I found "On the Subjection of Women" and "Socialism" to be far more insightful. At least it was short, and there is a neat passage on the justice of different conceptions of taxation-- equal sum, equal %, or graduated %.

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