Consequentialism: An Analysis Of Utilitarianism By John Stuart Mill

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Utilitarianism is the concept illustrated by John Stuart Mill as the maximization of human

happiness. (He relates utility to the “greatest happiness principle,” a concept by philosopher

Jeremy Bentham.) Mill describes happiness as “pleasure and the absence of pain.” Something of

extrinsic value has worth only because of the value or benefits it brings to something else;

something of intrinsic value has worth because of the value it possesses even while alone.

According to Utilitarianism, human happiness, or pleasure without pain, is the only thing of

intrinsic value. Utilitarianism is an off­shoot of Consequentialism, which holds that the

right­ness or wrong­ness of an action is evaluated by the outcome. (Consequentialism will be

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As was described before, Consequentialism is the theory that an action can only be

evaluated by the end result(s), or consequence(s), of the action. According to Consequentialism,

what is right and what is wrong may only be determined by the outcome, regardless of intent.

Utilitarianism is a theory which lies under the umbrella of Consequentialism; Utilitarianism

evaluates actions based on their outcomes in that the right actions are those which produce the

greatest amount of happiness. Suppose a man has just noticed that a dog (beloved by a family that

lives down the road) is about to be hit by a careless driver. In the time it takes him to notice that

the dog will be hit if he does not move, he calls the dog over, but the dog does not (and can not)

move out of the way on his own. If the man runs to the dog and picks him up before the car

collides with the dog, according to Utilitarianism, the man produces the greatest amount of

happiness within the family that the dog belongs to (rather than great sadness if he does not
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It becomes clear that Singer’s weak principle is not an adequate defense of Utilitarianism.

The provisions set by Utilitarianism may conflict with those set by the weak principle.

Utilitarianism states that right actions produce the greatest amount of human happiness, but the

weak principle does not obligate people to sacrifice things of moral significance; in cases where

the greatest human happiness is produced by someone else’s sacrifice of something morally

significant, which action is one obligated to take?

Consider once more the example of the car and the dog. Suppose that the dog belongs to a

large family who has a deep emotional connection to the dog. If Man A does not save the dog

because he is not obligated to, and the car kills the dog on impact, then the dog’s death impacts

the family in a tremendously sorrowful (and unhappy) way, but the man will remain content. If

Man A does save the dog, then the family becomes tremendously content upon learning of what

Man A has done, but Man A becomes sorrowful for his own loss. (Let us assume that the

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