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Utilitarianism on Morality and Sanctions

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Sarah Barrett November 29, 2004 Philosophy 101 John Stuart Mill Paper Utilitarianism on Morality and Sanctions "To prefer evil to good is not in human nature; and when a man is compelled to choose one of two evils, no one will choose the greater when he might have the less." 1 - Plato (Protagoras) George's moral dilemma faced in the example given is one that portrays an internal dilemma he faces within his own conscience in contrast with the external consequences of his actions in both respects-for his family and for the good of society. The example given shows a conflict of interest, but in correlation with John Stuart Mill's theory of utilitarianism, greatest happiness principle, theory of morality, and idea of internal and external sanctions is a complicated one of many levels. George, I believe should take the job at the biochemical weapons laboratory. His choice to do so, though, has many implications of which I will articulate; in taking the job George goes against his pacifist nature and moral conscious because he feels as though, by doing so, he is contributing his efforts towards the ultimate destruction of society and the happiness of the world, but he also on the other hand will be able to provide for his family and contribute to their happiness. Due to the fact that if George does not take the job someone else will be sure to take it and work more enthusiastically, the ...read more.


In not taking the job, and acting in the interest of his internal sanctions, his action reduces his own discomfort which he would have experienced had he taken the job, but increases the pain experienced by others affected by this action. Thus Mill's argument for acting in accordance with internal sanctions conflicts with the fundamental basis of utilitarianism to act not for self-interest but for the happiness of others. For utilitarianism argues, according to Mill in chapter 2, that the foundation of morals, utility of action holds that, "...actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain...pleasure and freedom from pain are the only things desirable either for pleasure inherent in themselves or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain." (p.7) Utilitarianism argues that actions are right only if they increase happiness and reduce pain, not merely in terms of one's personal happiness and pain, but the amelioration of happiness and reduction of pain as they correspond to greatest amount of people; "happiness [is] considered as the directive rule of human conduct...not the agent's own happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether." (p11) By taking the job at the laboratory, though, the only person that would ultimately be affected by the reduction of happiness, is George; the amount of potential people that would suffer from ...read more.


as one that would be contributing to the destruction and death of many, but they would thus fail to acknowledge that unless in some unusual circumstance of a boycott of such production of weapons, the production would continue regardless of their involvement. Therefore, George should make the decision of his action objectively-considering what he ought to do in terms of the actual external end result, disregarding his own beliefs-and thus realize that his acceptance of the job at the biochemical weapon lab would not, in itself, cause suffering and pain of anyone (other than himself, potentially), but rather increase the happiness of his family and other dependents. Mill's claims in accordance with this moral dilemma do not hold up, and in fact contradict what the utilitarian code of conduct implies that George should do. If George were to pursue his own pleasure, or lack of discomfort, in not taking the job, his family would lack the pleasure he enjoys; rather, if he chose to take the job, in rejecting his own happiness, he would be allowing the future happiness of his family. "Follow pleasure, and then will pleasure flee; flee pleasure, and pleasure will follow thee."2 (John Heywood) 1 Plato. "Human Nature." The Daily Muse 24 Dec. 2003, Issue 10. The Classics Network. 30 Nov. 2004 <http://classicsnetwork.com/dailymuse/issue.asp?ID=10>. 2 Heywood , John. "Human Nature." The Daily Muse 13 Oct. 2004, Issue 219. The Classics Network. 30 Nov. 2004 <http://www.classicsnetwork.com/dailymuse/issue.asp?ID=219>. ?? ?? ?? ?? 2 ...read more.

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