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Why are justice and integrity problematic for utilitarianism?

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Introduction

Week Three: Justice and Integrity Why are justice and integrity problematic for utilitarianism? Mill outlines utilitarianism as a principle by which one can make a choice, which will be considered as the correct or moral thing to do. He asserts that by choosing the outcome which would, under foreseeable circumstances, give maximum general happiness, you will be undertaking the most moral choice. Mill moves to this argument in Utilitarianism by considering first that all humans naturally desire their own happiness, and that by desiring such happiness we show that it must be good. He continues the argument by stating that the best society would be one in which all people work to maximise the happiness of the greatest number of people and with such creation of maximum happiness, there is the creation of maximum good. It is, however, this aggregation of desires in which Mill's argument faces its difficulties. I shall consider the cases of integrity and justice, of which neither seems to fit resolutely with Mill's utilitarian argument. Although Mill could, indeed, argue that the problems of integrity and justice such as emotional attachment and personal conviction, which I hope to show are problematical to the argument, are not a consideration of the utilitarian argument which looks solely at maximum happiness and not at motive, I shall endeavour to demonstrate the dilemma they pose for utilitarianism. ...read more.

Middle

The problem which I believe that integrity poses for utilitarianism is that it requires a lack of emotional attachment and personal moral constraints. Mill states that it is possible for the calculation of utilitarianism to be undertaken: "People talk as if the commencement of this course of experience had hitherto been put off, and as if, at the moment when some man feels tempted to meddle with the property or life of another, he had to begin considering for the first time whether murder and theft are injurious to human happiness." Although this is true Mill does not make allowance for the inclusion, and priority, of factors besides the maximum general happiness, such as the lower-order priorities discussed earlier. Can it be that a person can truly side-step their past experience and commitments and experience in any one circumstance? And indeed, is this a preferred situation? If we ask people to alienate themselves in each circumstance, and to consider only the maximum general happiness which would result from that particular circumstance, it seems that there would be no use in having any particular moral convictions, or rules to live by in general, when each circumstance must be interpreted individually. However, we must appeal to our inner sense of right and wrong, which has been created through social learning, to calculate that which would provide the greatest happiness. ...read more.

Conclusion

It seems, therefore, that under the laws of utilitarianism, there can be no justification for justice as a distributive practice. Ryan describes this conclusion as: "show(ing) justice is a principle independent of, and in some ways opposed to, that of a maximizing general happiness. To desire an equal, or fair, distribution of goods is not the same thing as desiring maximizing goods." Smart does, however, approach the above view in a positive way. Although it seems that justice does not equate with utilitarianism, it does not necessarily mean that utilitarianism itself can be condemned. Although it is unjust if the innocent man were to be put into prison, it must be accepted that greater happiness would be achieved. Thus it is that Smart agues the possibility that to be both just and happy is impossible and that, in reality, there can be no one ethical system which appeals to all natures and moods, for even each individual person has internal conflicts and would calculate utils on scales very different on different days, as well as with other people. I conclude, therefore, that due to the complexity of human nature and the way that humans build their moral and decision making processes from experience and social learning, integrity poses a problem to a utilitarian theory which relies upon a society which does not consider emotional attachments in their decision making process. ...read more.

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