Philosophy 1 Lecture Day 9
• Mill argued that the principle of utility cannot be proved “in the ordinary and popular
meaning of the term.”
• At best we can get considerations capable of determining the intellect, either to give or
withhold its assent to the doctrine; and this is equivalent to proof.
• Assent to the principle of utility requires an argument for the 2 theses:
1. Happiness is the one and only good
2. The general happiness is the good for the aggregate of persons
• The problem of the first thesis is that although we can prove something to be good
because it is a means to an end, we cannot prove that the ultimate end is good.
• Mill shifts to talk about what is desirable.
• What is good is an end, and “questions about ends are… questions about what things are
• Since we require no more evidence that happiness is desirable, we have all the reason we
can have for that thesis.
• It has frequently been asked whether the conclusion Mill has drawn is strong enough for
his overall thesis.
• Desirability as determined by desire does not seem to have normal force.
• On the other hand, happiness as a good is supposed to have the force of obligation.
• The second thesis is that “ The general happiness…is a good to the aggregate of all
• Mill claimed the meaning is that since “A’s happiness is a good, B’s a good, C’s a good,
& c the sum of all these goods is a good.”
• The meaning is not that “every human beings happiness is a good to every other human
• We might presume that the sum of all the goods is a good for a collective being, one that
might be called “society”
• Then it becomes a question why individual should pursue what is good for society.
• To complete the proof of the principle of utility it must be shown that happiness is the
only good that people desire.
• Virtue may also be desired though not as widely as happiness. • It is explained that virtue is originally desired as a means to happiness, it becomes an end
• It does so by becoming part of happiness:
1. Analogously, a desire for money begins by treating it as a means to happiness but
money becomes a component of happiness itself.
• But if virtue can become a part of happiness and is a good in itself, it is questionable
whether happiness can be equated with pleasure, even of the higher sorts.
• An objection to the principle of utility is that it conflicts with principles of justice.
1. What is useful may be unjust
• Mill concludes that we have a feeling that an injustice is an act for which a person ought
to be punished.
• This would distinguish it from what is merely useful or not useful, which carries no such
• Mill claims that what distinguishes them i