The Concept of Utilitarianism – Bentham vs Stuart Mill


The literal meaning of utility is functionality and adequacy. The gospel of utilitarianism authorizes us to do things that are advantageous and that promote aid, satisfaction, and contentment.

Utilitarianism - Bentham vs Stuart Mill

The total value or satisfaction a consumer derives from purchasing and using a service or product is known as utility. According to utilitarian philosophers, “only what is useful is good and that usefulness should be cogently regulated,” which targets the accomplishment of the topmost happiness of worthy people. It is the type of ethical theory that promotes such action that holds utility.

Utilitarianism is one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy. What distinguishes utilitarianism from egoism is that in utilitarianism people think about the happiness of all, whereas in egoism people talk about their love. On the utilitarian view, one should maximize the good — that’s, consider the good of others as well as one’s own.

It also talks about whether an action is immaculately right or wrong. And what’s the reason behind others’ happiness? All actions should be directed towards the maximum utility, which is essentially wellness or happiness.

Many theories on utilitarianism have been given. And many philosophers have envisioned it from divergent perspectives.

Principle of Utilitarianism:

  1. One should not entail evil or immoral.
  2. One should avert evil or bad.
  3. One should eliminate evil / wickedness.
  4. One should do or upgrade encourage good

Empirical Approaches:

  • Jeremy Bentham
  • John Stuart mill

Jeremy Bentham’s vision:

Jeremy Bentham was a British philosopher, magistrate, and social leftist. He is known as the chief expounder of utilitarianism. According to him, the life of the whole nation is more important than the life of one person. Human beings are pleasure-seeking and pain-avoidant animals. We do those things which become the source of happiness and pleasure. And according to him, utility, pleasure, and contentment can be measured. For this, he developed felicific calculus. He denied that utility is an evaluative concept. He said that utility can be computed arithmetically with the help of indicators.

Bentham calculated utility as follows:

Utility = Sum of pleasures – the sum of all pains

He states that if an action gives more happiness and less pain, or a sufficient amount of happiness and pleasure, then that behavior is right. It is wrong if it is causing more pain than pleasure. His theory promoted the happiness of all people.

Individual happiness = collective happiness


The theory has been criticized for several reasons. Critics hold that it doesn’t offer adequate protection for individual rights, that not everything may be measured by a similar commonplace, that happiness is a lot more complicated than mirrored by the idea. Mill’s essay represents his plan to reply to these criticisms and thereby supply a complicated and nuanced ethical theory. His theory was critiqued as it neglected selflessness and scarifies.

Conception of john Stuart mill:

John Stuart Mill (1806–73) was a British thinker and civil menial. He was the most influential English-language philosopher of the nineteenth century. Naturalist, utilitarian, and liberal, Mill responded to the challenge of empiricism with influential work exploring the consequences of a thoroughgoing empiricist outlook. Today, he is best remembered for his advocacy of utilitarianism, which he called the “art of assigning the proper value to each object in the universe.” He presented his notable ideas on social liberty, the harm principle, and feminism, He wrote a book called “On Liberty”.

His notorious work is known as his “work on “utilitarianism”, which he did in 1861. His theory is studied widely today. His theory of utilitarianism is a straightforward moral and legal theory with two main elements. Both are about the eventual value or foremost in life to provide criteria for deeming whether an action is morally right or morally wrong. Mill also discussed the connection between justice and utility, and argued that happiness is the foundation of justice.

Mill’s classical approach:

According to him, the utility can’t be computed arithmetically. It is not physical or qualitative in nature. He contends that joy can contrast in quality and quantity and that pleasures that are rooted in one’s higher faculties should be weighted more heavily than baser pleasures.

He neglected the idea of Jeremy Bentham and presented his own idea with few amendments and modifications.

°He said that a person doesn’t do any work for pleasure only. Some work could be done by a person, and he willingly bears the pain.

Example: Soldier’s Martyrdom, Sacrifice of freedom fighters.

He denied the statement of J.B. that a person doesn’t work only for pleasure and benefits. The actions or behavior of a person can also cause pain. Jeremy Bentham didn’t count selflessness in his theory, but Mill included it and said sometimes a person does the work for himself without thinking about the collective or people in his surroundings.

According to him, individual happiness is less than collective happiness.

“Individual happiness < collective happiness”

He went one step further and gave utilitarianism a metaphysical spin.

Utilitarianism Examples:

1. Pleasures that only satisfy the senses are only given an inferior pleasure. The work which we like to do, but it is not profitable for us.

Examples – playing mobile games, eating sugary candies, and procrastination…

2. Pleasures that satisfy the ravenous intelligence of humans Beings are superior delights. These are the actions or behaviors that increase knowledge, affect intellectual behavior, and increase our personality too.

For Example: Reading and writing…

He said that simple or normal pleasure is also a basic need of any animal. Sex, play, pleasure, and food are introductory solicitations for animals and all beings in the world. But humans, being different and distinct, must experience an intellectual pleasure. He further said that intellectual pleasure is much more valuable and of higher quality. Like the exhilaration felt by a reader captivated by reading a book or novel, an intellectual satisfaction like the satisfaction a doctor feels at discovering a cure for an illness.

Occasionally, comes Situations arrive, and at that time, we have to make decisions suddenly on the spot. It could be a delicate situation for anyone. But Mill said that a rational decision should be made. In Utilitarianism, Mill argues that virtue not merely has instrumental value but is constitutive of the good life. A person without morality is ethically lacking and is not able to promote the good.

Numerous other theories and philosophies on utilitarianism have been given by several philosophers after Mill. But the approach of John Stuart Mill is relatively witching and active.

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