Utilitarianism

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Overview

John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism is one of the most important, controversial, and suggestive works of moral philosophy ever written. Mill defends the view that all human action should produce the greatest happiness overall, and that happiness itself is to be understood as consisting in 'higher' and 'lower' pleasures. This volume uses the 1871 edition of the text, the last to be published in Mill's lifetime. The text is preceded by a comprehensive introduction assessing Mill's philosophy and the alternatives to utilitarianism, and discussing some of the specific issues Mill raises in Utilitarianism. This volume also includes an analysis of the text, substantial endnotes, suggestions for further reading, and a full bibliography.

This expanded edition of John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism includes the text of his 1868 speech to the British House of Commons defending the use of capital punishment in cases of aggravated murder. The speech is significant both because its topic remains timely and because its arguments illustrate the applicability of the principle of utility to questions of large-scale social policy.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
<:st>A major contribution in the history of ethics, Mill's brief treatise on utilitarianism lays the theoretical foundation for this branch of philosophy and outlines its relationship to other ethical systems, the arguments in its favor, and its implications for concerns about justice. The appendix contains the text of Mill's 1868 speech on capital punishment. A introductory chapter describes Mill's place in the history of philosophy and his contribution to the study of ethics. Cited in There is no index. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher

Adding the selections from the Speech on Capital Punishment is an excellent idea. --Mark Migotti, University of Calgary

Ben Eggleston University of Kansas
"Because Utilitarianism is a work of enduring value, it is easy to forget that Mill meant for it to be a topical and relevant contribution to the moral debates of his time. In this edition of Mill’s essay, Colin Heydt situates the work in its historical context by supplementing the text of the essay with appendices containing excerpts of related works by Mill’s predecessors, Mill himself, and prominent critics of his views. The historical richness of this edition of Utilitarianism would surely have pleased Mill, and will surely benefit today’s readers."
Dale E. Miller Old Dominion University
“Colin Heydt has made judicious choices about what additional readings to place alongside Utilitarianism itself. In addition, his clearly written introduction paints a very plausible and attractive portrait of Mill as a committed moral reformer, albeit one who recognized that the improvement of the received morality must proceed incrementally. This volume is well suited both for introducing Mill to students and as a resource for scholars who would like to have the most pertinent texts in easy reach."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781161484175
  • Publisher: Kessinger Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 5/23/2010
  • Pages: 58
  • Product dimensions: 10.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.19 (d)

Meet the Author

John Stuart Mill (1806 -1873) was a British philosopher and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham, although his conception of it was very different from Bentham's. Hoping to remedy the problems found in an inductive approach to science, such as confirmation bias, he clearly set forth the premises of falsification as the key component in the scientific method. Mill was also a Member of Parliament and an important figure in liberal political philosophy. John Stuart Mill's view on liberty, which was influenced by Joseph Priestley and Josiah Warren, is that the individual ought to be free to do as he wishes unless he harms others. Individuals are rational enough to make decisions about their good being and choose any religion they want to. Government should interfere when it is for the protection of society. Mill explains, "The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right...The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
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Table of Contents

Editor's Introduction
Selected Bibliography
Ch. I General Remarks 1
Ch. II What Utilitarianism Is 6
Ch. III Of the Ultimate Sanction of the Principle of Utility 27
Ch. IV Of What Sort of Proof the Principle of Utility is Susceptible 35
Ch. V On the Connection between Justice and Utility 42
App April 1868 Speech on Capital Punishment 65
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 6, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Rational.

    Quite simply put, Utilitarianism looks at ethics from an objective, rational standpoint. It ounlines the goal of morality, then shows how its principle best achieves that goal. Brilliant.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2006

    A fine essay

    I particularly enjoy the speech that Mill gave in 1868 on capital punishment. He explains why we should allow capital punishment to be use in cases of where the crime has resulted in a life being taken as oppose to the cases where the crime is against personal property. But to confine an individual to a life sentence and have that individual go through life with the possible guilt of the crime that he has just commited is more inhuman than a quick death. As far as his statement on Utilitarianism (borrowed from Jeremy Bentham) goes, he covers almost every type of critcism that will come this way of that belief. Just like Socrates, Mill considers the intellectual pleasures far more enjoyable (and meaningful) than those that take the physical form. A must read for all those that concern themselves with trying to attain a state of happiness.

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