Utilitarianism is an ethical perspective that aims at maximization of happiness and reduction of suffering. The principle of utility puts it that an individual must always do an action in order to produce happiness for self and fellow individuals. Simply put, it views as true happiness as the absence of pain. This principle had many supporters such as John Gay, John Stuart Mill, Bentham and William Paley among others. One of Mill`s greatest contributions in the utilitarianism theory revolves around the issue of high pleasures. This concept of the high pleasures defends an accusation on utilitarianism as being too crude as a moral doctrine. Mill states that in pursuit of happiness, greater weight should be put on higher pleasures. He recognizes higher pleasures as the pleasures preferred by the majority among those people who have experienced both types of pleasures. This differs greatly from the views of other utilitarians among them Bentham, that happiness is simply pleasure and the absence of pain. This means that individuals are happy if pain is absent and unhappy if they feel pain. Happiness was viewed in this simplistic manner as just the absence of pain which was used to criticize utilitarianism as a doctrine. Mill therefore defended it by classifying pleasure as higher and lower pleasure.
The other aspect that Mill sought to defend about utilitarianism is the claim by Bentham that all pleasures and pain can be counted and that all types of pain are equal and so are the pleasures. This meant that one pain can be replaced by another pleasure. For instance, Betham viewed that the pain of sickness can be for instance replaced or canceled out the pleasure derived from eating an ice-cream cone. Mill therefore, negated this perception created by Betham but instead identified that pleasure and pain have different weight and that the greatest good produced the greatest pleasure.
Mill`s notion was successful in improving Bentham`s utilitarianism since it made people recognize the fact that not all kinds of pleasure are equal, thus, some kinds of pleasure are more preferred and are desired than others.
Secondly, Mill`s notion has been successful in improving Bentham`s utilitarianism since he has come up with a proof of the principle of utility. He says that the only evidence that an action done by an individual is desirable is when people desire the action.
John Stuart Mill also successfully improved Bentham`s utilitarianism by coming up with methods of evaluating pleasures. The first method of evaluation was that suppose a pleasure is identified to be of high quality, it will be superior in terms of quality than the other pleasure despite the more quantity the other pleasure has.
In conclusion, utilitarianism is an ethical perspective that believes that an individual must do an action in order to produce happiness and content. Many scholars supported the principle. However, John Stuart Mill came up with a notion that criticized the principle. Instead of believing in equality among all forms of happiness, Mill believed that higher pleasures such as happiness and content were more superior to lower pleasures.
Sandel, Michael. What is the right thing to do? New York, Penguin Books Limited, 2009. Print.