The Utilitarian Theory

Here is the topic of your essay: select and summarize one of the four major ethical theories (Aristotle’s virtue ethics, natural law, Kant’s deontology, or utilitarianism) we have discussed and then summarize a major criticism of that theory. Then determine whether an advocate of the major theory can overcome the criticism or whether the critic is correct. In other words, you are trying to decide who’s right, the advocate or the critic.

The summary

Utilitarianism is an essay by John Stuart Mill provided to support the value of good morals and respond to the misconception about it in the society. He defines the theory based on the principle that action is in right proportion as they tend to promote happiness, and perhaps wrong as they produce the reverse of happiness in life. Moreover, he defines happiness as pleasure, and the absence of pain and that pleasure can vary with quality and quantity. Additionally, he says that a person who has achieved some goals in life and ends, such as a good life should take it as part of his or her happiness (Mill, 2003).

Consequently, Mill argues that theory coincides with natural sentiments that come from the human social nature in the society. Therefore, in the case where the people should consider the approach as an ethic, then they should naturally consider the standards to be morally binding, and the society should consider the same virtues as part of their lives. He says that happiness is the real source of happiness since what people desire in life is the aspect of happiness and not any other thing (Mill, 2003). Moreover, he says that at length the sentiment of justice is based on utility and the rights in the society exist since they are available to make people happy.

The Critics about the theory

The theory has received critics based on various aspects and facts about life. The critic complains and says that the method does not provide adequate protection for the human or perhaps an individual’s rights. Moreover, they say that everything in life is not the same and thus they cannot be measured by the same standard and that the happiness that Mill is talking about is not simple but rather complex. Mill tried in some essays to respond to the critics. For example, one argued that, based on the theory, lying and stealing would result in some adverse consequences in life. They say that an occasional lie to avoid embarrassment or perhaps an occasional theft from a wealthy person would not have some consequences and thus be permissible in the society. Therefore, based on the high contrast, Bentham through the hedonistic value that of life is more that the balance of life and pain and is very much far or rather heavy to be supported by the two aspects (Mill, 2003). 

The major theory versus the critics

Based on the reasoning of Mill that wrong actions will always produce some bad consequences in life, and right actions will as well bring pleasure. Therefore, according to Mill, when people steal and one day when they are caught, they should be prepared for some bad things to happen afterwards. When we look at the society, we get some rules and policies and the existence of the police to make sure that the set policies are taken care of and are implemented. Therefore, when a person is going contrary to the laws by either stealing or performing any other immoral behavior, he or she should be prepared to face the full action of the law. It is apparent that in life when you step on the fire, you must be burnt. Therefore, immoral people will always find themselves always behind the bars and prisons, and they are always excluded from the society (Hills, 2010).

Therefore, to understand the idea of Mill the people should look at the reason and the result of the concept in the society. The lawmakers have applied the concept and have borrowed from the thoughts of Mill in the making of the policies to protect the community from the immoral people. Moreover, the punishment that the wicked people go through with the rough conditions makes it impossible for the same individuals to desire going back to the place and also a lesson to the others who might have had such thoughts to be discouraged (Rosen, 2005). Therefore, based on the reason above, it is important to protect the society and make the people happy through the implementation of the infliction of pain to the people who rob the society of their happiness.

On the other hand, when we take a look at one of the critics, like the one saying that when a person robs a rich person, he or she should not be judged we realize that there is no sense of morality in such words and thoughts (Norcross, 2006). It is vivid that for that person to be rich and gather all his or her wealth they passed through some challenges and again they have worked hard for them. Therefore, taking into consideration reason of Mills in his theory and the above critics, it is clear that the Mills and his thoughts are moral and for the society to stand and live in peace, we need such principles. The community will be happy when morality rules and moves through the bloodstream of every individual and not the other way round as stated by the critics.


Hills, A. (2010). Utilitarianism, contractualism, and demandingness. The Philosophical Quarterly, 60(239), 225-242.

Mill, J. S. (2003). Utilitarianism and On Liberty: Including’Essay on Bentham’and Selections from the Writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Austin.

Norcross, A. (2006). The scalar approach to utilitarianism. The Blackwell guide to Mill’s utilitarianism, 217-232.

Rosen, F. (2005). Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill. Routledge.

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