Short Note on Mill’s Refined or Qualitative Utilitarianism

The Refined or Qualitative Utilitarianism can be summarized as follows:-

The moral criterion is Utility or the greatest happiness principle. Actions are right, if they promote happiness. Happiness means pleasure and the absence of pain Actions are wrong if they produce unhappiness. Unhappiness is pain and the privation of pleasure.

Pleasure and freedom from pain are only desirable Ends. All other things like virtue, health, love of honor, wealth, power are desired because they promote happiness.

Mill argues that “Desiring a thing and finding it pleasant are two names of the same psychological fact. To desire a thing without its being pleasant is a physical and metaphysical impossibility”.

Happiness is the only desirable end. Mill argues that we always desire pleasure therefore pleasure is desirable. The sole evidence that anything is desirable is that people do actually desire it. All person desire happiness, so happiness is desirable.

Mill holds that qualitative distinction among pleasures is as real as quantitative distinction. Intellectual pleasures are better than sensuous pleasures. Mill believes that we ought to seek satisfaction of higher capacities.

The question arises, what is the test of quality? Mill leaves it to the verdict of competent judges. Those who are equally acquainted with both intellectual and sensual pleasures are competent judges. These judges prefer intellectual pleasures to bodily and sensual pleasures. In addition to the verdict of competent judges, Mill refers to man’s “natural sense of dignity.” No man would consent to be changed in to the lower animals. Mill says “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

Mill argues that each man desires his own happiness. Each person’s happiness is good to that person. Therefore the general happiness is good to all persons. So, general happiness is good to each person. In this way, Mill explains transition from egoism to altruism. Mill advocates that, “The moral end ought to be, greatest happiness of the greatest number.”

Mill further states that utilitarianism grows out of self love. The law of transference of interest, changes self love into sympathy or fellow feeling. Egoist man seeks pleasures of others, in order to relieve his own pains. Seeking pleasures of others is means to achieve one’s own end i.e. pleasure. In the course of time, means and end are transferred and altruism develops from egoism.

Mill accepts the sanction of morality as given by Bentham. According to Mill, there are external as well as internal sanctions. Natural, Political, Social and Religious sanctions are the external forces. Mill accepts fifth, Internal sanction of Conscience. Individual’s own conscience controls selfishness and motivates altruism.

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