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Philosophy 1 Lecture Day 9.docx

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George Mattey

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 desirable.” • 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 persons” • 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 being.” • 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 in itself. • 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 sanction. • Mill claims that what distinguishes them i
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