The Ethical Philosophy of Utilitarianism

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 5
Words: 1413
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: College


An ethical problem has been faced by philosophers throughout the history of normative ethics when it comes to making a decision on what is morally proper or bad. Morality is grounded on human reason and universal moral rule in deontology. Traditional utilitarianism, on the other hand, stresses that deeds, not intentions, should be used to determine if something is right or bad. In determining what is right or wrong, utilitarianism takes into account human behavior as it actually occurs in the real world (Mill 337). Traditional utilitarians, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Miller, argued that a course of action is justified if it maximizes the good it delivers to the largest possible number of people.


Utilitarianism ethics in the real world indicates that activities can be regarded ethically upright if the overall consequence is for the greater benefit. Utilitarianism theory was developed to explain the relevance of utilitarianism as a moral notion and to eliminate the widespread misconceptions about it. Utilitarianism is based on the premise that activities are right in proportion to the extent to which they tend to promote happiness (Lu 36). Utilitarianism critics regard pleasure as the fulfillment of the world, whereas Mill sees happiness as a constant joyful thrill throughout one’s life. To do this, people must rely on their morals and shun all forms of wrongdoing to the fullest extent possible.

Utilitarians, are those who want to maximize the good they can get out of life to the greatest extent possible. They are often happier when they maximize the utility of their actions. People tend to derive a lot of satisfaction while engaging in morally good things as compared to the morally wrong things (Boccalatte and Kaylee 22).The art of pursuing refined pleasures of the mind is far superior to pursuing bodily pleasures. In his comment, Mill,demonstrates that”it is better to be a human being unsatisfied than a pig content” (336). People do not have to be physically fulfilled in order to make the world a pleasant place. That is because utilitarianism is based on the notion of happiness rather than satisfaction, and being physically fulfilled does not differentiate between good and wrong; in actuality, revenge offers satisfaction, which is ethically wrong.

Mill also agrees with the assertion that self-sacrifice is necessary for pursuing one’s pleasure and also contributes to one’s happiness. It is not necessary to sacrifice since individuals will instead seek out sources of happiness. People sacrifice a lot of their time and energy to achieve their personal objectives in life, thus this is a valid point of view. The joy of achieving one’s objectives serves as a powerful motivator for those who have them (Lu 33). However, this may only apply to people who are doing good deeds for the well-being of the society and those in their immediate surroundings. Many of utilitarianism detractors are usually mistaken on the ideology that God cares about everyone and wants them all to be happy (Lu 34). Everyone should therefore sacrifice for their pleasure since God is a “constant” force, and will bless them all.

The utilitarian theory main goal was to provide moral support people and motivate them on the need to attain self pleasure. Usually deeds are permissible in proportion if they aim to improve the well-being of the whole human race. Instead of focusing on rights or morality, it is important to place emphasis on how actions affects others. Throughout Utilitarianism, the main argument is on the need for laws in making moral judgments. Additionally, the utilitarianism concept illustrates that morality is a function of social conventions (Bennet,5). Quite often, the terms “morally correct” and “morally wrong” are used differently by philosophers. To be morally wrong, people tend to believe that a certain behavior must be punished by legal penalty, public disapproval, poor conscience, or internal sanctions (Mill 335). This serves as the key difference between absolute expediency and morality.

Wrong or inappropriate behavior includes things like self-inflicted pain and can not be recommended in society. In the context of immoral action, inconvenient activity is not worthy of punishment. The “Art of Life” is divided into three sections: aesthetics, prudence, and morality (Bennet,6). A person may legitimately be compelled to observe moral principles that apply in a particular field of endeavor. In other cases, though, sanctions for inappropriate behavior are not acceptable. One of these is Stuart article “On Liberty”, which discusses selfish behavior and how it has a negative impact on the concept of deriving self happiness. A person’s level of pleasure may be gauged by how well they achieve their goals and objectives, such as by leading a moral life.

People are free to act in whatever way they want and do whatever they want in the private realm as long as they do not harm anybody else. Individual morality is viewed by Mill as a community endeavor (Mill 333). It is the responsibility of a society’s moral philosophy to better align that society’s moral code with the utilitarian principle. Utilitarianism concept may be reconciled with the “normal” sentiments that result from the social life of mankind (Boccalatte 369). As a result, if utilitarianism is chosen as an ethic, people will immediately absorb these ideas as morally obligatory. Mill disagrees with the radicals on the nature of happiness but does not forsake the heritage of utilitarianism that the radicals has embraced (Mill 335). Contentment is regarded as the absence of both sorrow and worries and presence of happiness (Bennet,7). Pleasures and satisfaction for humanity is rooted in one’s higher faculties should take precedence over those found in one’s lower faculties since they might fluctuate in quality and quantity.

Happiness is the foundation of morality, and humans never desire anything other than that. Happiness is also regarded as the root cause for existence for humanity and every person will strive to lead a self-fulfilling life. All other things needed for survival are either ways to happiness or components of the concept of happiness. In additionally, emotion of justice is predicated on utility and satisfaction exist exclusively to support human pleasure. Similarly, the theory of the happy life suggests that pleasure is the sole cause of human contentment (Boccalatte 379). The main things that makes people feel worse is suffering and discontentment. A person’s life is worthwhile as long as they are content and experience happiness and pleasure in whatever aspect they undertake. This “pleasure” and “painlessness” is what utilitarianism ethical theory identifies as “happiness.” Utilitarianism is also regarded as an existence free of suffering and full of pleasure and happiness. This may also be conceptualized as hedonism, a term used to describe the philosophy of life.

Mill advocates for hedonism in his proof of the theory of utility. The only proof that anything wonderful exists is that people sincerely desire to have it. That is why pleasure is so vital since it is the one thing people desire just for their own reasons (Bennet,8). A person may like both reading poetry and jogging, yet the joys they obtain from these hobbies may have very different feelings to them. So it is conceivable that certain things are more pleasurable and significant than other depending on the amount of satisfaction that is derived from them(Bennett 9). It is a well-known maxim in the field of life theory that certain pleasures contribute more to people’s satisfaction than others. When it comes to a joyful experience quality, length, and intensity are all important aspects. Usually deeds are permissible in proportion if they aim to improve the well-being of the whole human race. Instead of focusing on rights or morality, it is important to place emphasis on how actions affects others. Throughout Utilitarianism, the main argument is on the need for laws in making moral judgments to realize self happiness.


In conclusion, many moral lessons may be drawn from the utilitarian theory, as seen from this paper which supports most of Mill’s moral ideas. For instance, pleasure and satisfaction are regarded to have a strong connection with utility and justice. A utilitarian’s capacity to reason in a morally honest manner is bolstered by Mill’s incorporation of happiness into his utilitarian theory. Utilitarianism’s morality is enhanced by the self-happiness concept and Mill argues that people will sacrifice a lot of their time and energy to achieve their personal objectives that derive happiness in life. In a review, utilitarianism is not about making people happy but is about making the people to obtain satisfaction in whatever they do.

Works Cited

Bennett, Christopher. What is This Thing Called Ethics? Routledge, 2019.

Boccalatte, Kaylee. “Neo-Classical Thought: Alfred Marshall and Utilitarianism.” The Palgrave Handbook of Management History, vol. 5, no. 10, 2020, pp. 367-385.

Lu, XinYuan. “Utilitarianism of Mill and Bentham: A Comparative Analysis.” Frontiers in Educational Research, vol. 3, no. 4, 2020, pp. 1-54.

Mill, John Stuart. Utilitarianism: Seven Masterpieces of philosophy. Routledge, 2016.