Many people fail to understand utilitarianism because they interpret utility as being an opposition to pleasure. Precisely, utility refers to pleasure itself as well as the absence of pain. Therefore, the other name for utility can be the Greatest happiness principle. The principle holds that all actions are right in quantity as they promote happiness, wrong as they produce the opposite of happiness (Long, 2017). Through happiness, there is intended pleasure as well as the absence of pain. On the other hand, by unhappiness there is pain and deprivation of pleasure. Pleasure as well as the absence of pain are in this account the things which are desirable as the end products the only things which are inherently good. Based on this, any experience, event or circumstance is desirable if it is a source of pleasure. Moreover, actions are good if they result into a higher level of happiness and bad if they decrease that level.
The other criticism is the claim that it is demeaning and base to reduce the sense of life to just pleasure. However, human pleasures are superior and animalistic. The moment individuals get awareness on their higher faculties, they can’t be happy to leave them unrefined. Therefore, happiness is an indicator that people exercise their higher faculties. Apparently, some pleasures might be base yet this does not imply that some of them are essentially more valuable compared to others. Whenever making a moral judgment on, utilitiarism considers not only quantity but also the quality of the pleasures which emerge from the action (Hoag, 2018). Further Mill in his account delineates the way to differentiate between lower and higher quality pleasures whereby a pleasure is of higher quality if individuals would choose it over another pleasure even though it goes with discomfort and if they won’t trade it with a bigger amount of the supplementary pleasure. It is an undisputed fact that allowed equal access to all sorts of pleasure, individuals will prefer ones which apply to their higher faculties. No person will choose to be an animal, no educated person will desire to become ignorant among others. Although individuals who embrace higher faculties normally suffer in life, they can never desire a lower existence, instead they prefer to maintain dignity.
Critics argue that Mill happens to claim not only that higher pleasures are fundamentally valuable compared to lower pleasures but intermittently better. According to critics, this is beyond Bentham’s quantitative hedonism and it is not clear if Mill’s account is consistent with hedonism. However, it is clear that we need to interpret higher pleasures like subjective pleasures. Subsequently, Mill has indicated that he is a hedonist concerning happiness. Radicals might not have been clear concerning the sensation or mental state they take pleasure to be although it appears clear that they perceive it as some sort of sensation or mental state. Some critics such as Bentham seem to seem to regard pleasure as being a sensation that has a distinctive type of qualitative feel (Mondal, 2016). Other critics, maybe desolate of defining qualia that is common to desperate kinds of pleasures, try to comprehend pleasures functionally as sensation or mental states the person, whose states are, desires and is willing to extend. Mill’s account holds something similar to this functional outset of pleasure.
Another criticism of this account rises from the confusion of contentment with happiness. Individuals who embrace higher faculties are usually less content since they comprise of a deep sense of the world’s limitations. Nevertheless, their pleasure is normally of a higher character compared to that of a base human or animal. According to Mill’s account, it is good to be a dissatisfied human being than a satisfied pig (Mondal, 2016). And incase the pig or the fool are of diverse opinions, it is because they know the side of their question. Therefore, individuals who are better placed to judge the quality of a pleasure are the ones who have experience in both the lower and higher pleasures.
Lastly, according to the Mill’s account, even if possession of a noble character brings less happiness to a person, the society will always benefit. Therefore, since the greatest happiness principle gives consideration to the amount of happiness, even if less desirable for a person, a noble character remains necessary in a utilitarian measure.
Long, R. T. (2017). Mill’s Higher pleasures and the Choice of Character. Utilitas, 4(2), 279-297.
Hoag, R. W. (2018). JS Mill’s language of pleasures. Utilitas, 4(2), 247-278.
Mondal, A. L. (2016). Mill’s critique of Bentham’s utilitarianism. International Journal of Philosophy Study (IJPS), 4, 13-21.