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Mill's Utilitarianism

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Essay title: Mill's Utilitarianism

Mill's Utilitarianism

When faced with a moral dilemma, utilitarianism identifies the

appropriate considerations, but offers no realistic way to gather the

necessary information to make the required calculations. This lack of

information is a problem both in evaluating the welfare issues and in

evaluating the consequentialist issues which utilitarianism requires

be weighed when making moral decisions. Utilitarianism attempts to

solve both of these difficulties by appealing to experience; however,

no method of reconciling an individual decision with the rules of

experience is suggested, and no relative weights are assigned to the

various considerations. In deciding whether or not to torture a

terrorist who has planted a bomb in New York City, a utilitarian must

evaluate both the overall welfare of the people involved or effected

by the action taken, and the consequences of the action taken. To

calculate the welfare of the people involved in or effected by an

action, utilitarianism requires that all individuals be considered

equally. Quantitative utilitarians would weigh the pleasure and pain

which would be caused by the bomb exploding against the pleasure

and pain that would be caused by torturing the terrorist. Then, the

amounts would be summed and compared. The problem with this method is

that it is impossible to know beforehand how much pain would be caused

by the bomb exploding or how much pain would be caused by the torture.

Utilitarianism offers no practical way to make the interpersonal

comparison of utility necessary to compare the pains. In the case of

the bomb exploding, it at least seems highly probable that a greater

amount of pain would be caused, at least in the present, by the bomb

exploding. This probability suffices for a quantitative utilitarian,

but it does not account for the consequences, which create an entirely

different problem, which will be discussed below. The probability also

does not hold for Mill's utilitarianism. Mill's Utilitarianism insists

on qualitative utilitarianism, which requires that one consider not

only the amount of pain or pleasure, but also the quality of such pain

and pleasure. Mill suggests that to distinguish between different

pains and pleasures we should ask people who have experienced both

types which is more pleasurable or more painful. This solution does

not work for the question of torture compared to death in an

explosion. There is no one who has experienced both, therefore, there

is no one who can be consulted. Even if we agree that the pain caused

by the number of deaths in the explosion is greater than the pain of

the terrorist being tortured, this assessment only accounts for the

welfare half of the utilitarian's considerations. Furthermore, one has

no way to measure how much more pain is caused by allowing the bomb to

explode than by torturing the terrorist. After settling the issues

surrounding the welfare, a utilitarian must also consider the

consequences of an action. In weighing the consequences, there are two

important considerations. The first, which is especially important to

objectivist Utilitarianism, is which people will be killed.

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