»Explain Why Mill Distinguishes Between Higher and Lower Pleasures and Assess Whether He Achieves His Aim or Not.«

1523 Words May 8th, 2005 7 Pages
PY1101 Ethical Theory

»Explain why Mill distinguishes between higher and lower pleasures and assess whether he achieves his aim or not.«

March 2005, St Andrews
In his Essay Utilitarianism Mill elaborates on Utilitarianism as a moral theory and responds to misconceptions about it. Utilitarianism, in Mill's words, is the view that »actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.«1 In that way, Utilitarianism offers an answer to the fundamental question Ethics is concerned about: ‘How should one live?' or ‘What is the good or right way to live?'.
In the first chapter, General Remarks, Mill points out that, even after 2000 years, this fundamental question
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For example, I may prefer banana ice cream to chocolate ice cream, and I may prefer chocolate ice cream to strawberry ice cream, but I may also prefer strawberry ice cream to banana ice cream. It does not follow that I must prefer banana to strawberry. Mill might defend himself by claiming that the example given is trivial and that on important moral matters preferences will be transitive, but this has to be discussed in further study.
Another problem that people have with Mill's respond to The Philosophy of Swine Objection is that »it may be objected that many who are capable of the higher pleasures, occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower«. Mill responds to this with the argument that this does not make any difference for the higher-lower-pleasure principle, since the person consciously chooses a lower pleasure. It has also been objected that »people loose their enthusiasm for the higher pleasures.« Mill's answer to this is that they do not choose this but became incapable of higher pleasure.
There is, however, another objection to Bentham's form of utilitarianism, which can be responded to with Mill's higher-lower-pleasure distinction. This is referred to as the Haydn-Oyster-Objection, which, in short, hints at the following problem: suppose you could choose between the life

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