Discussion on Mills Utilitarianism

  • Utilitarians argue that reaching the “greatest happiness principal” and avoiding all pain is the ultimate goal in life (pg. 5 of Utilitarianism by Mill), which is a similar view of Epicureans.

Does the “avoidance of pain” make sense in reality? We have all experienced pain in our lives, some worse than others, but can you argue that certain pain teaches us life lessons, provides experience and personal growth? Do you agree that pain can result in good eventually, or do you think that pain should be avoided above all else?

During my groups discussion, we agreed pain can sometimes result in happiness and personal benefit and/or benefit of others. Because pain could potentially result in good, it complies with Mills philosophy. Emotional pain is similar to physical pain in the sense that if we learn from our mistakes, for example touching a hot stove element, it teaches us to not do it again and provides us knowledge that hot things will hurt us. By enduring emotional pain in ones life, happiness can be achieved. Therefore, pain should not be avoided at all costs, considering it can be beneficial.

  • Mill states that there are two types of pleasures: sensual pleasures that Epicureans were fond of, or “pig pleasures”; and Intellectual pleasures (pg. 3-5 of Utilitarianism by Mill). He argues that intellectual pleasures are of more quality that sensual pleasures.

What is your opinion on this? Do you find this insulting to people who mostly enjoy sensual pleasures/or are incapable of enjoying intellectual pleasures?

My group discussed the fact that each human is different and therefore enjoys different things. If someone enjoys gourmet food or nice clothing, also known as “sensual pleasures”, then there should be no judgment in what they choose to enjoy. On the other hand, if someones personal taste is more intellectual, or they prefer to indulge in “higher pleasures”, then that is their own choice. It is somewhat insulting that sensual pleasures were referred to as “pigs pleasures” considering it is someones personal choice to indulge in these, also keeping in mind that an intellectual (Mill) wrote this philosophy, making this biased.

Mill, Kant, O’Neill

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