Does Happiness Have An Intrinsic Value?

•October 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I would argue that happiness has no intrinsic value. Happiness is an emotion, a feeling, a mental state and without happiness derived from or given to one creature or object or whatever you want to call it is a meaningless word. Happiness could just as easily be related to love, what is love without hate, happiness without sadness, and someone or something to experience these feelings and decide the differences between them? Would happiness exist without people? I would argue that it would not and the reasons are simply that it is human to be happy or sad and that without consciousness to experience these things and without situations and social interactions that have a positive or negative effect on these overall feelings happiness or more to the point, any emotion has no value and in my own opinion truly does not even exist.

One Question to John Stuart Mill

•October 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The one question I would have to ask Mill would be about his footnote regarding intent. Now I based a significant amount of my arguments in support of Mill both in and out of class on this footnote., however as I read in the book it only appears in version two of Mill’s writings and nowhere else. Now that could be for any number of reasons but it strikes me as especially important to look at when determining Mill’s positions on morality versus overall happiness. In several examples in class we posed the question that what if someone acts with good intention but for any number of reasons the action ends in a bad way, meaning a decrease in overall happiness. In Mill’s footnote he makes a distinction in the case of lying to a friend to avoid “fatal” consecuences to oneself, that friend or another person, and also in the case of a tyrant saving his enemy for the sole reason of torturing him later. Mill argues that the inteded consequence, the prevention of harm or the intent to do greater harm in the future, determines the morality of the whole action. I like this understanding but it appears in conflict with other of Mill’s defenses and is susceptable to too many grey areas of moral responsibility.

Is Happiness Unattainable?

•October 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

The objection to Mill’s idea that morality is based upon our influence on overall happiness is rather weak in my opinion. The objector says that morality cannot be based on happiness because happiness is unattainable. Now I see several flaws in this argument including the very obvious one that there is simply a gut feeling that this is wrong. Mill argues as would I that yes, everyday people around the world go without happiness, but it is most often not by their own choice and when it is by their own choice, happiness is sacrificed for something that the person finds more valuable than their own happiness. Now in this state yes it would seem that perfect happiness is unattainable, and to a very certain degree both Mill and I would agree, but that does not prove the objection it merely highlights a flaw. Just as Mill explains in the section on the demands of Utilitarianism, the perfect state of happiness is only an ideal, something to be worked for so the fact that one is becoming less unhappy only proves that happiness is attainable.

Is Utilitarianism Too Demanding?

•October 30, 2008 • Leave a Comment

I support Mill in his defense of utilitarianism against the critiscism that the ideals of utilitarianism are far too demanding to be achievable by humanity. Mill’s argument is that the ideals of utilitarianism, that one should act for the increase in total happiness without regard for self, is merely a guidline not a concrete demand of humanity. Mill highlights the idea that no set of moral principles expects its followers to adhere to it at all times and in the most perfect sense, but that they should attempt to work towards the ideal. Mill also sights that the increase of overall happiness is not required on a grandios scale, at least with reference to the average person, but that one should act for the betterment of those around oneself. I simply do not believe that an idea that promotes the increase of overall happiness can be too demanding, especially in the context of Mill’s argument.

Group Assignment #1

•October 6, 2008 • Leave a Comment

In our assigned reading today our group was asked to look sections from John Stewart Mill on pages 323 and 325. In these sections Mill introduces another objection to utilitarianism. The objection is that renouncing happiness for virtue is the basis of human life and therefore happiness cannot be the purpose of human life. Mill defends against this objection by several methods. The first way Mill confronts the objection is by ceading that it is possible to do without happiness but that it is not a voluntary action to do so, but that when done it is for the attainment of something one values more than his own individual happiness.  Mill also points out that the object of renouncing ones own happiness is never for virtue that would be attained by doing so. Mill admits that in an imperfect world (like our own) it is impossible to attain perfect happiness for everyone and bearing that in mind often an individual or a group must cead a certain degree of happiness for the increased effect of overall happiness for the rest of the society.

Reflection on Mill

•September 22, 2008 • 2 Comments

“I asked you to think about Mill’s position that some pleasures – the “higher” pleasures – are intrinsically better than others – the “lower” ones.”

Mill defines higher and lower pleasures simply as the ones which humans uniquely possess, and those that all animals possess. I can agree that a certain individuality and therefore increased worth can be found in the “higher pleasures” but then again I am not willing to say that there is a definite division of worth between the lower and the higher. Are not some of the “lower pleasures” what make us human, I assume Mill would say the opposite and say that they only define us as animals, but if the lower pleasures are what first define us and the higher pleasures only distinguish are they not both independently important to what we are as human beings?

Moral Responsibility

•September 22, 2008 • 1 Comment

“To what extent are we morally responsible for the consequences of our actions, and what does this tell us about utilitarianism?”

I believe that the extent of our moral responsibility is to what we intend in our actions. We might act with the intention of doing good but due to forces outside of our control the eventual outcome might be to the detriment of overall happiness or overall good. Now utilitarianism does not take into account intent, which I believe is its major flaw. To use an example repeated in class that of the boy saved from drowning that goes on to be a serial killer, the original intention was to save the boy for the benefit of the boy and his family. By doing so, adhering to utilitarianism we have done a good act by preventing sadness, but later on once the situation is out of our control we have actually added to overall sadness because of the boys actions. I think that what is important is our intention and once another intervenes with their own actions and motives the chain of moral responsibility is broken.