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Flashcards in Mill's Proof Of Utilitarianism Deck (10)
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What does Mill's Proof of Utilitarianism aim to show?

Aims to defend hedonism and, by implication, the utility principle as the "first principle" of moral evaluation.


What type of proof is Mill's proof?

Mills proof is not a deductive proof
Instead he aims to provide evidence for the correctness of the utilitarian doctrine
He provides what we might call an evidential proof
That happiness is desired is evidence for it being good
There is no evidence that anything else is desired independently of happiness


Structure of Mills proof

1) Happiness is a good, as is evident form the fact that everybody desires happiness
2) Each person's happiness is a "good to that person"
3) The general Happiness is thus a good to the aggregate of all persons
=> preliminary conclusion from 1-3: Happiness is... one criteria of morality.
Last step: Happiness is the only good


Controversial steps in Mill's proof?

Naturalistic fallacy?
Fallacy of composition?
Implicit consequentialist premise?


Does the proof involve a naturalistic fallacy?

Term from G.E. Moore
Is there an unjustified inference from "is desired" ( an empirical fact) to is "desirable" ( a normative judgement)?
- it follows from the definition of visible that if something is seen it is visible
it does not follow from the definition of desirable that if something is desired it is desirable


Mills Response to Naturalistic fallacy?

Mill doesn't say that happiness is desirable (a good) because it is desired

Only postulates that the evidence for whether or not something is a good is that it is desired


Does the proof rest on a fallacy of composition?

Is there an unjustified inference from the value of each part of the general happiness (to someone to value of the whole (general happiness?


Sidgwick's fallacy of composition critique

An aggregate of actual desires, each directed towards a different part of the general happiness, does not constitute an actual desire for the general happiness
Difference between utilitarianism and egoism


Possible reply by Mill to the composition fallacy

Mill is not trying to infer form "everyone desires their own happiness" that "everyone desires the general happiness"
Instead, Mill is defending Sum-ranking
I meant to argue that since A's happiness is a good, B's is a good, C's is a good, etc, the sum of all these goods must be a good.


Implicit consequentialist Premise

Morality is concerned with the promotion of the good
What is right is what brings about the best consequences
Mill slips from arguing that happiness is the highest good to claiming that what is right is what maximises happiness