Utilitarianism Essay

Despite making valid claims on justice, John Stuart Mill ‘s attempt to
reconcile justice and utility is not successful. Mill explains how justice
dictates certain actions and results; however, he does not thoroughly explain
how each aspect promotes the most utility for all. In other words, Mill
describes how the different interpretations of justice are often interpreted,
while explaining that there is too individual interpretation, he demonstrates
how justice cannot be reconciled with utility. Mill begins his argument by
giving five interpretations of justice. First, is the notion that it is”unjust to deprive a person of their liberty, property, or any other thing
which belongs to him”(Mill, 43). Next he goes on to describe how justice, when
interpreted as a legal right, should always be upheld and thoroughly obeyed.

Mill attacks this claim by explaining that laws are sometimes unjust, and that
most laws follow the general laws of what is morally right. Thus in most
instances, as Mill claims, laws are not needed. He then goes on to examine the
claim that justice can be correlated to what one “deserves”(Mill, 44). This
claim also leaves too much room for individual pleasure. The next rule of
justice Mill discusses refers to the notion of faith. According to Mill this
rule is, “not regarded as absolute, but as capable of begin overruled by a
stronger obligation of justice on the other side…”(Mill, 44). Lastly, Mill
explains how being “partial” is not in accordance with justice. By
disallowing partiality, a general interpretation of justice warrants
impartiality, which then would in turn promote the most utility for all.

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According to Mill the notion that justice promotes “impartiality” is a
contradiction. Mill declares that “equality”, which emerges from
impartiality, cannot exist in a hierarchical society. Furthermore, he says that,
“those who think that utility requires distinctions of rank do not consider it
unjust that riches and social privileges should be unequally dispensed”(Mill,
45). Mill conveys the idea that justice has a flaw in that is allows for
different people to have different levels of utility. This placing of one
group’s desires for utility above another’s is congruent to the act-utlilitarian’s
claim that all actions should are determined by their consequences. Thus, under
act-utilitarianism one may be impartial as long his or actions promote the best
consequences, which in this case would deprive not promote a shred utility. In
conclusion, Mill reiterates that does not have a clear understanding of the
common link between the different interpretations of justice. He states,
“among so many diverse applications of the term ?justice’, which yet is
not regarded as ambiguous, it is a matter of some difficulty to seize the mental
link which holds them together, and on which the moral sentiment adhering to the
term essentially depends”(Mill, 45).


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