Philosophers of the past have argued about the value of morality. John Stuart Mill and Bentham are both known for their utilitarian philosophy. But what about Durkheim and Weber’s critiques of utilitarianism? Do they really represent a better way to live? What are the consequences of being a utilitarian? And how do they relate to the current philosophical debate? In this article, we will explore both of these philosophers’ ideas.
Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarianism
The foundation of Bentham’s philosophy of utilitarian justice can be traced back to his 1748 writings on liberty and responsibility. Bentham’s definition of liberty was a “negative” one: freedom from external compulsion or restraint. While freedom is essential for individual well-being, it is also essential for society. Bentham’s work was influential in the early development of legal systems around the world.
The philosopher Jeremy Bentham is generally credited with developing the philosophy of utilitarianism. Bentham found that there are only two intrinsic values in the world: pleasure and pain. From these, he derived the “rule of utility”: that a good is what brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people. Bentham also credited the development of the utilitarian theory to Joseph Priestley, a scientist and theologian who founded unitarianism in England.
Utilitarianism is based on the idea that the greatest happiness for the most people is obtained from the most advantageous action. John Stewart Mill, another influential philosopher, shared this view. While Mill developed a rule theory based on personal preferences, Bentham’s philosophy emphasized the higher mental pleasure. While both philosophers sought to make moral decisions, Mill and Bentham’s philosophy differed in that they consider the intensity of pleasure when comparing the value of different actions.
The principle of utility was often annexed to religious and theological views. The principles of utilitarianism have been reinterpreted throughout history, but many scholars have noted that Jeremy Bentham’s theory remained influential. He was also a strong advocate of women’s rights and human dignity. But, the theory of utility is not as well known as Mill’s. However, his philosophy did have a great influence on the development of the modern concept of utilitarianism.
Some philosophers have challenged Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy by limiting the concept of happiness to physical pleasure. But others argue that happiness can’t be broken down into pleasure and pain. This view differs from utilitarian theory because it fails to take into account the emotional content and suffering of non-humans. The definition of good in this context is not solely dependent on putting other people’s needs above one’s own.
John Stuart Mill’s philosophy of utilitarianism
Utilitarianism is a philosophy of society in which every action should be done for the benefit of everyone, not merely the benefit of an individual. Mill’s philosophy relies heavily on the sentiment of justice. It is human nature to react to acts of injustice, and we cannot exclude these feelings from our theory of morality. Mill offers two possible interpretations of the source of the sentiment of justice. He rejects the notion that our feelings of outrage can be an independent principle or sense of justice.
According to utilitarianism, every action has its own utility – a net total of pleasure minus pain. It takes into account both the short-term and long-term consequences of each action. Consequently, the action that produces the highest utility is considered to be right. However, there are times when no action can produce more pleasure than it causes. In such cases, the action must be avoided.
Although utilitarianism is a moral theory, there are numerous criticisms of it. Some say that the theory is incoherent, because it fails to protect individual rights and reflects a more complex view of happiness. However, Mill’s essay answers these criticisms and provides a more complex moral theory. In addition to his ethical philosophy, he emphasizes the role of hedonism in society.
Although Mill argues that promoting happiness of all people is not unreasonable, it fails to provide evidence for this idea. This imposes a burden on self-interest theories of practical rationality, because they must provide a justification for their actions. While Mill does not explicitly prove that the principle of greatest happiness is incompatible with human nature, he does argue that it is the most appropriate moral theory.
The essay’s five chapters are particularly crucial for understanding the foundation of utilitarianism. The essays explore the myths associated with utilitarianism, as well as the ultimate sanctions of utilitarianism. In addition to discussing the foundations of utilitarianism, it also outlines the relationship between happiness and justice. In Mill’s philosophy, happiness is the foundation of justice. He claims that it is impossible to achieve happiness without achieving some objective.
Durkheim and Weber’s critiques of utilitarianism
The critiques of utilitarianism by Durkheim and Weber differed in their focus. Both argued that the present society is suffering from anomie, a condition in which people are unable to realize their full potential. Weber, on the other hand, supported Durkheim’s attempts to strike a balance between idealism and historicism. They emphasized the importance of human rights, individual autonomy, and the common good.
According to Durkheim, ‘human beings are social creatures. It is therefore unnatural for humans to act in ways that contradict their nature’s needs. Similarly, Spencer’s utilitarian principles undermine social solidarity and unfetter egoism. However, according to Durkheim, the division of labor is a major source of social solidarity, while workplace developments tend to exacerbate anomie. Hence, it is imperative to preserve the division of labor and organic social solidarities.
Parsons’ critical articles on Weber and Durkheim tended to be a mix of critiques. Weber’s critique of Durkheim’s theory of the social world was a particularly controversial one. Parsons praised Weber, but criticized Bendix’s interpretation of Weber. Parsons felt that Weber’s critique was too simplistic and misrepresented the two authors.
Moreover, the two philosophers differed in their views on the role of law in society. While La Porta saw law as an institution of social restraint, Durkheim viewed it in the opposite way, as a means to enhance social solidarity. While Weber was critical of the concept of ‘rights,’ he believed that legal mediation could overcome inequality through the power of law.
For Weber, the Protestant ethic he criticized is fundamentally Protestant. He argues that the Protestant ethic gave rise to the spirit of capitalism, as it promoted self-sacrifice and the accumulation of wealth. Moreover, he says, the Protestant ethic has given rise to the modern condition of instrumental action. For Weber, rationality and depersonalization are synonymous with bureaucracy and mechanisms, and the resultant oppression and abuse of personal freedom is not a positive one.
Criticisms of act-utilitarianism
Act-utilitarianism has a number of drawbacks. For example, people may argue that it is ineffective in helping people achieve their goals, such as saving their lives. But if it were true, it would allow doctors to use human organs for the benefit of many more people. In addition, act-utilitarianism would make it easier for people to break their promises, a major issue in today’s society.
Act-utilitarians reject rigid rule-based morality. They argue that morality must focus on the effects that an action has on a particular person, rather than treating a class of actions as “good or bad” in general. Moreover, since individual actions vary across different contexts, they are not universally good or bad. Act-utilitarians acknowledge that moral rules are useful, but they maintain that if someone can do more good by breaking a rule, they should do it.
Among other reasons, act-utilitarians reject rule utilitarianism. These rules fail to address the issue of rule-worship, which is the irrational deference to rules that have no utilitarian justification. For example, a stop sign is an ineffective way to prevent traffic accidents, because drivers often drive too fast, inattentive, or distracted. Thus, they cannot make rational utilitarian judgments about their own safety. However, the costs of accidents are extremely high, and they often leave victims permanently disabled.
One of the main weaknesses of act-utilitarianism is its inability to account for many moral concepts. As a result, it is not possible to arrive at correct answers to moral problems. For example, act-utilitarianism fails to recognize important moral concepts such as justice, rights, and desert. It also ignores basic values such as justice and duty, which make the distinction between actions and omissions unnecessary.
A related concern with act-utilitarianism is its potential to undermine trust. Act-utilitarians say that the traditional moral rules are too rigid, which undermines the basis for trust. By demanding people to act according to the moral rules, act-utilitarians undermine the moral code’s benefits by sacrificing its good effects. It is important to understand the difference between rule and act-utilitarianism, though, and decide which philosophy is best for your own situation.