Are we consequentialists in our everyday activities?
With regards to what Mill has explained in the selection from his work Utilitarianism, consider the question of whether or not people are utilitarians in this sense of term. Not so much that they want to increase pleasure (whether only for themselves or others), but rather do persons act in such a manner that promotes utility (or, efficiency and expediency) for the largest possible amount of people? For instance, consider the firefighter who has a choice to save one child or to save three children. The firefighter does not know any of the children, nor does he know anything about them. But it is reasonable to assume that they would choose to save the three children over the one child. Why? Because that is simply what it would be to fulfill the role of an effective firefighter! However, this is only one instance; overall, do we have reason to believe that happiness for the greatest amount of people over the longest amount of time is in fact the sole criterion of morality as Mill suggests?
Give an exposition of the argument that Mill provides in the assigned selection. This should include his formulation of the Principle of Utility, on which his argument relies. Then, answer the following question: Why should moral actions just result in maximizing happiness?
Relying on this exposition, and your answer to the previous question, explain how people act, in both day to day and extraordinary circumstances, considering only the consequences of actions.
Required Reading: J.S. Mill “Utilitarianism” (Selection) (Textbook Pg. 358 – 356)
Recommended Reading: “Mill’s Moral and Political Philosophy” – Section 2.0, 2.3, 2.6, 2.7 & 2.11 < http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill-moral-political/ >
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