Chapter 2 UTILITARIANISM

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Chapter 2
U TILITARIANISM
One way of thinking about the right thing to do, perhaps the most natural and
farniliar way, is to a k what wiU produce thc greatcst happiness for the greatest number
of people. This way of thinking about moraliry finds its clearest staternent in the
philosophy
of Jeremy Bentharn (1748-1832).
[n his lutroduction ro the Priuciplcs (!(
Morals and Le.'<.is/atiol1(1789), Bentharn argues that the pr inciple of utiliry should be
the basis of moraliry and law By utiliry, he means whatever prornotes pleasurc or
prevents pain.
Bentham 's urilitarianism
is opcn to a nurnber of objections. One is rhar maxirnizing utiliry, or collective happiness, may come at the expense of violating individuaI rights. Suppose, for exarnple, that a large rnajority despises a minority religion,
and wants it banned. Would the happiness of the majority justify banning the religion of the few? John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
ought to rescue utilitarianism
from
the objecrions
to which
Bentharn'
version scerned
vulnerable.
In his essay
Utilitarianism (1861), Mill argues that respect for justice and individua] r ighrs as "the
most sacred and binding part of ali moraliry" is compatible with the idea that justice
rests ultimately on utilitarian considerations.
Here then is a question to consider as
you read Mill: Can the utility principle support the idea that certain individuaI rights
should be upheld even if doing so makes the rnajoriry very unhappy? If not, which
should give way-respect
for individuaI rights, or thc utility principle itself?
PRINCIPLES
OF MORALS
jere/l/y
Chapter I. Of the Principle of Utility
l.
NATUIU
has
placed
mankind
under
the
governance
of two sovereign masters, pain and
pteasure. It i for them alone to point out what wc
ought to do, as well as to deterrnine what we shall
do. On the one hand the standard of right and
wrong, on the other the chain of causes and
effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern
us in a11we do, in all we say, in ali we think: every
AND LEGISLATION
Benthant
effort we can make to throw off our subjection,
wiU serve but to dernon trate and confirrn it. In
words a man may pretend to abjurc their empire:
but in rcaliry he will rernain subject to it all the
whilc. The priuciple o] utilitv' recognises
this
subjecrion, and assumes it for thc foundation of
I. Note by rhc Aurhor.july
l H22.
To rhis denornination
has of lare bcen added, or substiruted. rhe grcatcs: happiness or srca/cslfeliril)' principle:
IO
Chapter
li UTILITARIA15M
that system, the object of which is to rcar the fabric of felicity by the hands of reason and of law,
ysterns which attempt to question
it, dea I in
ounds instead of sen e, in caprice in tead of reason, in darkness insread of light.
Bur enough of meraphor and declamation: it IS
not by such rneans rhar moral science is to be
improved.
Il. The principle of utiliry i. the foundation of
the present work: it will be proper therefore at the
outset
te give an explicit
and dererrnmate
account of what is rneant by ir. By the pr inciple '
of utiliry is meant that principle which approvcs
or disapproves
of every action
whatsoever,
according te the tendeney
whieh it appears to
have to augment or diminish the happiness of the
party whose interest is in question: or, what is the
sarne thing in orher words, to promote
or to
oppose that happiness, I say of every action whatsoever; and therefore not only of every action of
a private individual,
but of every measure of
governmenr.
l Il. I3y utility is meant thar properry in any
object, whereby it tends te produce benefit,
advantage, pleasure, good, or happine
,(a11 this in
rhe present case come
te the sarne thing) or
(whar comes again to the ame rhing) te prevent
the happening of mischref, pain, evil, or unhappiness ro rhe party whose interest i. considered: if
that party be rhe comrnuniry in genera], then the
this for shortnes . instead 01' say1l1g ar length rhat prinap/c which srares rhe greatesr happiness 01'ali rhose whose
interesr is in quesnon, as being che nght and proper, and
only rrghr and proper and universally desirable, end 01'
human acrion: 01' hurnan action in ewry vituarion, and
111particular in that 01' d functionary or ser 01' funetionaries exercising the powers 01' Covernmcnt. The
word IIt;/iI)' does nor so clearly pomt ro rhe ideas 01'
plcasurc and 1'";11 as the words happiness and Ji·/icily do:
nor does ir lead us [Q che considcrarion 01' che nutnber, of
rhe interesrs affected: to the I//IIII[I/'r •• " bemg the
circumstance, which contribures, 111the largest proportion, to che forrnarion 01' che vtandard here in quesrion:
rhe standard
r(~/II and "'rOI/,~. by which alone the propricry 01' hurnan conduce, 111cvery srruarion, can wirh
propriery be tried. Thi want of a sufficienrly marufest
connexion berween che ideas 01' happincss and pleasurc
011 the one hand, and the idea of IIti/it)' 011 the other,
I have every now and then found opcranng, and with
bur reo much efficiellc)'. as a bar to thc acceprance. rhat
might orherwi e ha"e been glvcn. re rhls prinCiple.
2, Thc word prmciple IS dcrived from the Lann pnnclplUIl1:which seems re bc compounded
of the two words
~r
happiness
01' the cornmuniry: if a parricular
individuaI, then the happiness of thar individual.
IV Thc intere t of che cornmuniry
IS one of
the most generai expression
that can occur in
the phraseology
of morals: no wonder that rhe
rneamng of it is often lost. When it has a meaning, it is this. The cornrnuniry
is a fictitious bodv,
cornposed
of the individuaI
persons who are
convidered as constituring
a it were its membcrs.
The intere. t of rhc cornmuniry
then is, what?the SUIll of the intcrests of the sevcral mernber
who compose it.
V lt is in vain te talk of the interest of the
communirv,
without under tanding what i. the
intercst of the individua!'. A thing is said to promore the interest, or to bc
the interest, of an
individual, when it tcnds to add te the SUIl1 toral
of his pleasures: or, what come to the arne thing,
te diminish the SUIll total of his pains.
VI. An action then Illay be said te be con-
Ior
formable te the principle of uriliry, or, for shortness sake, to uriliry, (meaning with re pect to rhe
communiry
ar large) when the tendency it has ro
augmcnt
the happines
of the cornrnuniry
is
greater than any it has ro diminish it.
VI!. A measure of governrncnr
(which i but
a parncular kind of action, performed by a particular pcrson or per on ) l11ay be said te be conformable te or dictated by the principle of uriliry,
when in like rnanner the tendency which it has to
augmenr
the happine s of rhe cornmuniry
i
grcater rhan any which it has to dirninish ir.
VII!. When an action, or in particular a measure of govcr nment, is supposed by a man ro be
conforrnable
te the principle of utiliry, ir Illay be
primus, firvr. or chief, and tip;II/II. ,I reruunarion
which
secrns ro bc dcrivcd from capio, ro rake, as 111I//tII/CliJÌlIIII,
1//1i1/;C;I';III11; to which arc analogous,
III/CI'1'5, [orceps, and
orhers. It l' a ter m 01' very vagllc and very cxtcnsive slgmficauon: it IS applied ro any thmg whrch 15 conceived
ro serve a.~ a foundation or begmning to Jny series 01'
peranons: 111'ome cases, of physical opcranons; bur of
rncntal operarions in rhe presenr case.
The principle herc 111quesnon ma)' be taken for an
act 01'rhe nund: a sentimenr; a scnnmcnc 01'approbation:
.1 sentuncnr
which, when applied re an acuon, approves
of It' unliry. a thar qualiry 01' it by \\ hlch thc measure of
.Ipprobanoll or dlsapprobation
besrewcd lIpon It ollght
re bl' go\'crncd.
3. Imere't IS onc 01' rhase word,. whleh not havll1g .In)'
supenor .~<'II/", c.lllnot 111thc ordlll.lry \\'a) be ddined.
JerclII),
Bell/llarll
11
convenient, for the purposes of discourse, to imagine a kind of law or dictate, called a law or dictate
of uriliry: and to speak of the acrion in question, as
rrack and in a wrong one, the rarest of all human
qualitie is consistency,
XIlI. When a man atternpts to combat the
being conformable to such law or dictate.
IX. A man may be said to be a partizan of the
principle of utility, when the approbation
or disapprobation he annexes to any action, or to any
measure, is determined
by and proportioned
to
the tendency which he conceives it to have to
augment or to dim.inish the happiness
of the
cornmunity: or in other words, to its conformity
or unconformity
to the laws or dictates of utility.
X. Of an action that is conformable
to the
principle of utility one may always say either that
it is one that ought to be done, or at lea t that it
is not one that ought not to be done, One l11ay
say also, that it is right it should be done; at least
that it i. not wrong it shouJd be done: that it is a
righe action; at least that it is not a wrong action.
When thu interpreted, thc words oughl, and righi
principle of utiliry, it is with reasons drawn, without hi being aware of it, from that very principle
itself'". His argurnents, if they prove any rhing,
prove not that the principle i !Vrol'lg, but that,
according to the applications he upposes to be
made of it, it is misapplied. Is it possible for a man
to move the earth? Yes; but he must first find out
another earth to stand upon.
XIV To disprove the propriety of it by arguments is impo sible; but, from the causes that have
been mentioned, or from some confused or partial vicw of it, a rnan may happen to be disposed
not to relish it. Where this is the case, if he thinks
the scttling of his opinions on such a subject
worth rhe trouble, let him take the following
steps, and at length, perhaps, he may come to
reconcile himself to it.
and tIlrong and other of that starnp, have a meaning: when otherwise, they have none.
XI. Has the rectitude of this principle been
ever formally conte ted? It should seem that it
had by rhose who have not known what they
have been meaning. Is it susceptible of any direct
proof? it should seem not: for that which is used
to prove every thing else, cannot it elf be proved:
a chain of proofs must have their commencernent
sornewhere. To give such proof is as impossible as
it i needJess.
XII. Not rhat there is or ever has been that
hurnan creature breathing, however rupid or perverse, who has not on rnany, perhaps on most
occasions of bis life, deferred to it. By the natural
constitution of the human frame, on rnost occasions of their lives men in generai ernbrace thi
principle, without thinking of it: if not for rhe
ordering of their own actions, yet for rhe rrying of
their own actions, a well as of those of other men.
There have been, at the sarne rime, not many, perhap , even of the most intelligenr, who have been
disposed to embrace it purely and without re erve.
There are even few who have not taken some
occasion or other to quarrel with it, either on
account of their not understanding
always how to
apply it, or on account of ome prejudice or other
which they were afraid to exarnine into, or could
not bear to part with. For such is the stuff that man
i made of: in principle and in practice, in a right
4. "The principle of utiliry, (I have heard it said) is a da ngcrous principle: ir is dangerous on certain occasions ro
consult it.'This is as rnuch a to say. what? thar it is nor
consonant tO uriliry, to consult uriliry: in short, rhat it is
1101 consulting
ir, ro consulr il.
Addirion by me Author.july
1822.
Not long afier the publication of rhe Fragmcnt on
Covernrnent, anno 1776, in which, in thc characrer of
an all-cornprehensive
and alJ-commanding
principle,
the principle of lIIilily was brought to view, one person
by whom observarion to rhe above effecr \VaS nude was
Alexander Wedderbllrtl, at that rime Attorney or oliciror
Ceneral, afrer wards successively
hief )ustice of the
Cornrnon Pleas, and
hancellor of England, under the
successive ritles of Lord Lough borough and Earl of
Rosslyn. lt wa made--e-not indeed in my hearing, but in
the hearing of a per on by whorn it was alrnosr irnrnediarely cornrnunicated
to me. So far from being sc1fconrradicrory, ic was a shrewd and perfectly true one.
13y that distinguished
funcrionary, the state of rhc
Gover nrncnr was thoroughly
understood:
by thc
obscure individuai, at that cime not so much as supposcd
ro be so: his disquisirions had not been as yet applied,
with any thing like a cornprehensive view, to the field of
Constitutional
L3\V, nor rherefore to those features of
the English Governmenr. by which the grearesr happine" of rhe ruling ,,"e with or without thar of a favoured
few, are now so plainly seen to be rhe only ends to
which the COlme of ir has ar any rime been directed.The
principio
IIlilily
was an appellarive, at thar rime
employed-cmployed
by me, as ir had been by others,
to designate thar which, in a more per picuous and
in rructive rnanner. may, as above, be designared by me
narne of the gren(('5/ happiness principle. 'This pr inciplc
'!r
12
Chapter
II
UTIlITAIlIA
15M
I. Let him settle with himself, wherher he would
wish to discard this principle altogether: if SO,
ler him consider what it is thar all his reasonings (in matters of politics especially)
can
amount to?
2. lf he would, let hi111 settle with h imself,
whether he would judge and act without any
principle, or whether
rhere i :l11y other he
would judge and act by?
3. If rhere be, Jet him examine
and satisfy himself
whether the principle he rhinks he has found
is really any separate inrelligible principle; or
whether it be not a mcre principI e in words, a
kind of phrase, which at bOtt0111 expresses neither more nor less than the merc aver mcnt of
his own unfounded
sentimenrs; that is, what
in another
person he might be apt to cali
caprice?
4. If he is inclined to think that his own approbation or disapprobation,
annexed to the idea of
an acr, withour any regard to its consequences.
is a sufficienr foundation for him to judge and
act upon, let him ask hirn clf whether his seritirnent is ro be a srandard of right and wrong,
with respect to every other man, or whether
every mans senrimenr ha rhe sarne privilege
of being a standard to itself?
(said Wedderburn) IS 3 dangerous one.' aylllg '0, he said
thar which, ro a certain exrenr, i, tnetly true; a pnnClpie, which lays down, as the only r(~/II and jusnfiable end
of Government,
the greatest happincss of rhe greate t
number-e-how can it be denied te be a dangerous one?
dangerous it unquestionably
IS, te every governmenr
which has for its actual end or object. rhe grearesr happiness of a cerrain olle. with or wirhour the addition of
some cornpararively small nurnber of others, whom il is
matter of pleasure or accornmodarion
ro hirn te adrnit,
each of rhern, ro a share in the conccru, on the footing
of so many junior parrners. Daugerous ir rhercforc really
was, ro rhe ìnrerese=-rhc sinistcr interest-e-of ali those
functionaries. himself included, whose interest it was, to
maxirnize delay, vexarion, and expeme, in judicial and
other modes of procedure, for rhe sake of the prolir.
exrractible our of the expense. In a Governrnenr which
had for irs end in view the grcatesr happine 5 of rhe
greatesr number, Alexander Wcddcrburn
rnight have
been Attorney Generai and then Chancel!or: bur hc
would nor have been Atrorney Generai with ..cIS,OOO a
year. nor Chancellor, with a peerage with a veto upon
al! jusrice, with ;(25,000 a year. and with 500 inecurcs
at hi~ disposal, under the name of Eccle~lamcal
Uencfices, besides et ca'teras.
In thc first case, let hirn a k him elf whether
his pr mciple is not de potical, and hostile to
ali rhe rest of hurnan race?
6. 1n the second case, whether it i not anarchial, and whether ar this rate there are not
as many ditTerent standards of right and
wrong as there are men? and whether even
to the sarne man, the same thing, which is
right to-day, may not (wirhout
the lea t
change in its nature) be wrong tO-1110rr w?
and wherher rhe sarne thing i not right and
wrong in the same placc at the ame rime?
and in either case, whethcr ali argument
is
not at an cnd? and whether, when rwo men
havc said, 'I likc this,' and 'I dori't likc it,' they
J.
can (upon such a principlc) have any thing
more to say?
7. lf he should have said to hirnself No: for that
che sentirncnt which he proposcs as a standard must be grounded on refiecuon, let him
ay on \ hat particulars the reflection is ro
rum? if on parnculars having relari n to the
utiliry of rhc act, then Jet him say whether
this is not deserting his own principI e, and
borrowing
assistance from rhar very one
in oppo irion to which he sets it up: or if
nor on tho e particulars,
on what other
parricular
'
8. If hc should be for cornpounding
the matter,
and adopting his own principle in part, and
rhe principle of utiliry in part, let hi111 say
how far he will adopt it?
9. When hc has setti ed with hirnsclf whcre he
will stop, then let him ask hirnself how he
jusrifies to himself the adopring it so far? and
why he will not adopt ir any farther?
IO. Admitting any other principle than the princi plc of utility to be a right principle, a princi ple rhat it is right for a rnan to pursue;
adrnitring (what i not true) that the word
r~~/H cari have a meaning without reference to
utiliry, lct hirn say whether there i any uch
thing as a niotlve that a man can have to pllrsue rhe dicrate of it: if there is, let hirn say
what that motive is, and how it is to be disnnguishcd frorn those which enforce the dictates of uriliry: if not, then lastly lcr hi111 say
what it is this other prinClple can be good
for?
jerel/ly
Chapter IV, Value of a Lot of Pleasure or
Pain, How to Be Measured
L Pleasures then, and the avoidance of pains, are
the ends that the legislator ha in view; it behoves
rum therefore to understand their ualue. Pleasures
and pain are the instruments
he has to work
with: it behoves him therefore to understand their
force, which is again, in other words, tbeir value,
Il. To a perso n considered by Iti//lse!f, the value
of a pleasure or pain considered by itset]; will be
greater or less, according te the folli' following circumstauces I:
1. lts intensitv,
2. lts duration.
3. Its certainty or unccrtainty,
4. Its propinquit» or retnoteness.
!lI. The e are the circurn tances which are to
be considered in estimating a pleasure or a pain
considered each of them by itself. Bue when the
value of any pleasure or pain is considered for the
purpose of estirnating the tendency of any act by
which it i produced, there are two other circurntances to be taken into the account; these are,
5. Its [ecundity, or the chance it ha of being followed by sensarions of the sante kind: that is,
pleasures, if it be a pleasure: pains, ifit be a pain.
6. lts purit», or the chance it ha of not being followed by sensations of the opposi/e kind: that is,
pains, if ir be a pleasure: pleasures, ifit be a pain.
These two la t, however, are in strictne s scarcely
to be deerned properties of thc pleasure or the
pain it elf; they are not, therefore, in strictness te
be taken into the account of the value of that
pleasure or that pain. They are in trictness te be
l. These circurnstances
have since been denominated
elements or dimensions of Ve/Il/I' in a pleasure or a pain.
Not long after rhe publication of thc firsr edition, che
following memoriter verses were frarned, in rhe view of
lodging more effecrually, in the me::mory, rhcse p ints,
011 which che whole fabric of morals and legislation
may
be seen ro rest.
lntense, IO/lg, certain, speedyJrtliifid, l'lire-Such mark in pieasures and in pains endure.
uch plea ures seek if private be thy end:
lf it be public, wide let thern extcnd
Such pains avoid, whichever be thy view:
lf pain 1/1/151 come, let thern extend to few.
Beutham
13
deerned properries only of the act, or other event,
by which such pleasure or pain has been produced; and accordingly are only to be takcn into
the account of the tendency of uch aet or such
evento
IV To a number of persons, with reference to each
of whom tO the value of a pleasure or a pain is conidered, it will be greater or less, according to seven
circumstances: tO wit, the six preceding ones; viz,
1. lts intensitv.
2. lts duration.
3. Its certaintv or untertaintv.
4. Its propinquitv or remoteuess.
5. lts [ecunditv.
6. lts puritv,
And one other; ro wit:
7. Its extent; that is, che nurnber of persons to
whorn it cxtends; or (in other words) who are
affected by it.
V To take an exact accounr then of the generai
tendcncy of any act, by which the interests of a COI11rnuniry are affected, proceed as follows. Begin with
any one person of those whose interests seern mosr
inunediately to be affected by it: and take an account,
1. Of rhe value of each distinguishable
pleasure
whieh appears te be produced by it in thc .firsl
instance.
2. Of the value of each pain which appears to be
produced by it in the .{lrsl instance.
3. Of the value of each pleasure which appears tO
be produced by it q/ferthc fìr t. This constirutes
the [ecunditv of the firsr pleasure and the iinpurity of the first paiu,
4. Of the value of each paiu which appears to be
produced by it afier che first. This constirutes
the [ecundit» of the first pain, and the impuritv
of the first pleasure.
5. SUI11IIp all the values of ali the pleasures on the
one ide, and those of ali the pain 011the other.
The balance, if it be on the ide of pleasure, will
give the good tendency of the act upon the
whole, with respect te the interests of that individua! person; if on the side of pain, the bad tendency of it UpOI1 the whole.
6. Take an account of the II/I/I/ber
of persons
.
\
whose mterests appear to be concerned; and
14
Chaprer
Il
UTILITARIANISM
repeat the above process with respect te each.
1/1/1 "P rhe numbers
expressive of the degrees
of Jlood tendeney, which the acr has, with
respect te each individuai, in regard te whom
the rendency of it is good upon the whole: do
rhis again with respect to each individuaI, in
regard te whom the tendency of it i good upon
the whole: do this again with respect te each
individuaI, in regard te whom rhe tendency of
ir is bad upon the whole. Take the ha/al/ce which
if on the side of pleasure, will give the general
good teudencv ofthe acr, with respect to the total
nurnber or cornmuniry
of individuals
concerned: if on the side of pain.the general evi/
tendencv, with respect to the arne cornmuniry
VI. It is not to be expecred
that this process
should bc stricrly pursued previou Iy to every
moral judgment. or to every legislative or judicial
operation. It may, however, be always kept in view:
and as near as the process actually pursued on
these occasions approache
to it, so near will such
process approach to the character of an exact one,
VII. The sarne process is alike applicable to
pleasure and pain, in whatever shape they appear:
and by whatever denornination
they are distinguished: te pleasure, whether
ir be called ,,<ood
(which is properly the cause or instrurnent
of
pleasure) or proju (which i distant pleasure, or the
cause or instrurnent of, distant pleasure.) or COIlvenieuce, or adlJal/tage, benefu, emotument, happiuess,
and so forth: to pain, whether it be called evi/,
corre ponds te ,,<ood) or niischie], or i//COIIvenieuce. or disadvautaçc, or /055, or unliappiness. and
(which
so forth.
VIII. Nor is thi a nove! and unwarranted,
any
more than it is a useless theory, In all thi there is
nothing
bur whar che practice
of mankind,
wheresoever
they have a clear view of their own
interest, is perfectly conformable
to. An article of
property, an estate in land, for in tance, i valuable,
on what account? On account of the pleasures of
all kinds which it enables a man to produce, and
what come
to the sarne thing the pain of ali
kinds which it enables him to avere. But the value
of uch an article of properry is universally understood ro rise or fall according to the length or
shortne: s of the time which a man ha. in ir: the
certainry
or uncertainry
of its coming into posse sion: ami the nearness or rernoteness of the
cime at which, if at all, it is te come into po session. As to the intcnsitv of the pleasures which a
rnan may derive from ir, this is never thought of,
because it depends upon the use which each particular person may come to make of it; which
cannot be csrimatcd till the particular plea ures he
Illay come ro derive from it, or the particular
pains he may come to exclude by means of it, are
brought to view For the sarne reason, neither
doe he think of the [ecundit» or puritv of tho e
plcasures,
Thus much for plea ure and pain, happine sand
unhappiness, in genera/o We come now to con ider
the
UTILITARIANI
jo/m
Chapter L General Remarks
There are few circumstances among rho e which
rnake up the present condition of hurnan knowledge, more unIike what rnight have been expected,
or more significant of the backward state in which
speculation on the most important subjects stili
lingers, than the little progress which ha been made
in the decision of the controver y re pecting the criterion of right and wrong. Frorn the dawn of philo ophy, the qucsrion concerning
the 51/////1/11/11
everal parricular
kind
of pain and Pleasur~
M
tuart Mill
or, what is the sarne thing, eoncerning che
foundation of moraliry, has been accounted the main
problem in peculative thought, ha occupied the
most gified intellects, and divided thern into sects
and school , carrying on a vigorous warfare against
one another, And afier more than rwo thousand
years the sarne discussion continue, philosophers are
stiU ranged under the same conrending banners, and
neither thinkers nor mankind at large eern nearer to
being unanirnous on the subject, than when the
youth
crates li tened to che old Protagoras, and
bOI/Il///,
16
Chaprer Il UTllITAlllANISM
due te the tacit inAuence of a standard not recognized. Although the nonexistence of an acknowl-.
edged first principle has made ethics not so much a
guide as a consecration of men' acrual entirnents,
still, as men s entiments, both of favour and of aversion, are greatly influenced by whar they suppose ro
be the effects of things upon their happine s, the
principle of utility. or as Benrharn latterly cali ed it,
the greate t happine
principle, has had a large
hare in forming the mora! doctrine even of those
who most scornfully reject il:! authority.
or IS
there any school of thought which refu es te adrnit
thar the inAuence of actions on happiness is a most
material and even predorninanr
consideration
in
many of the details of morals, however unwilling to
acknowledge
it as the fundamental
principle of
moraliry, and the source of mora! obligarion, l
might go much
fiirther, and say that te ali those
a priori rnoralists who deern it necessary te argue at
ali. urilitarian arguments are indispensable. lt is not
my present purpose te criticize these thinkers; but l
cannot help referring, for illustration, ro a systernatic treatise by one of the rnost illustriou: of thern, the
,\[etapl!ysics of Ethics, by Kant. This rernarkable man,
whose system of thought will long remain one of
the landmarks in the history of philo ophical specularion, does, in the rreati: e in question, lay down a
universal first principle as the origin and ground of
moral obligation; it i this." o act, that the rule on
which rhou acte t would adrnit ofbemg adopted as
a law by ali rarional beings." But when he begins to
deduce from this precept any of rhe acrual dutie of
moraliry, he fails, almost grocesquely, te show that
there would be any contradiction, any logical (not
to say physical) irnpossibiliry, in che adoption by ali
rational beings of the mo. t outrageously irnrnoral
rulcs of conduct.AlI he shows is that thc comeq/lellces
oftheir univer al adoprion would be uch as no one
would choo e to incur.
On the pre ent occasion, l hall, without furthcr
discussion of the other theories, arternpt to contribure ornething towards the understanding
and
appreciation of the Urilitarian or Happiness theory,
and towards such proof as it is susceptible of lt is
evident that this cannot be proofin the ordinary and
popular meaning of the term. Questions of ultimate
ends are not arnenable te direct proof Whatever
can be proved te be good. rnust be so by being
shown to be a means te something adrnirted te be
good without proof The medicai art is proved to
bc good by its conducing to health: but how is it
possiblc
music is
produces
give that
there is
ro prove that health is good? The art of
go d, for the reason, among others, that it
plcasure; bur what proof i it possible te
pleasure is good? If then, it is asserted that
a cornprehensive
formula including ali
things which are in themselve good, and that whatever else 15 good, is not so as an end, but as a mean,
the formula may be accepted or rejected, but is not
a subject of what i commonly understood by proof
We are not, howcver, te infer that its acceptance or
rejection must depend on blind impulse, or arbitrary
choice. There is a larger rneaning of the word proof,
in which rhis que: tion is
amenable to it as any
other of the disputed questions of philosophy,
he
subjcct i within the cognizance of the rational faculty; and neithcr doe that faculry dcal with it solely
in the way of intuition.
onsiderations may be presented capable of detcrrnining thc intcllecr cither to
give or withhold its assent te thc doctrine; and this
is equivalent te proof
<
We shall exarnine pre. endy of what nature are
these considerarions; in what rnanncr they apply to
che case, and what rational grounds, rhercfore, can
be given for accepting or rejecting the urilitarian
formula. But it is a preliminary condition of rational acceptance or rejection, that the formula hould
be correctly understood.
l believe that the very
impcrfecr notion ordinarily formed of irs rneaning,
is the chief obstacle which impedes its reception;
and that could it be cleared, even from only the
grosser rnisconceptions,
the que tion would be
greatly irnphfied, and a large proportion of irs difficulties rernoved. Before, therefore, l attempr to
enter into the philosophical grounds which can be
givcn for assenting to the urilitarian standard, l shall
offer some illu tration of thc doctrine itself with
the view of showing more clearly what it i , distinguishing it frorn v hat it is not, and di posing of such
of the practical objections to it as either originate
in, or arc do cly connected with, I1Utaken interpretarions of its meaning, Having thus preparcd the
ground, l shall afierwards endeavor te throw such
light as l can lIpon rhe que tion, considered a one
of philosophical theory.
Chapter
II.
What
Utilitarianism
Is
A passmg rernark is all that needs be given to the
ignorant blunder of uppo ing that rho: e who tand
up for uriliry as the test of right and wrong, lise the
)0/111
term in that restrictcd and merely colloquial sense
in which utility is opposed to. pleasure. An apology
is due to the ph.ilo ophical opponents of utilitariani m, for even the momentary
appearance of confounding them with any one capable of so absurd a
misconception; which is the more extraordinary,
inasmueh as the eontrary accusation, of referring
everything to pleasure, and that too in its grossest
form, is another of the cornrnon charges against
utilitarianism: and, as has been pointedly rernarked
by an able writer, the same ort of persons, and
ofi:en the very sarne persons, denounee the theory
'a impraetieably dry when the word utiliry precedes the word pleasure, and as too practicably
voluptuou when the word pleasure precedes the
word utility'.Those who know anything about the
matter are aware that every writer, frorn Epicurus te
Bentham, who rnaintained the theory of uriliry,
rneant by it, not sornething
to be contradi tinguished frorn pleasure, but pleasure itself, together
with exemption from pain; and in tead of opposing
the u eful to the agreeable or the ornarnental, have
alway dec!ared that the u eful rneans these, among
other things. Yet the comrnon herd, inc!uding the
herd of writers, not only in newspapers and periodicals, but in books of weight and pretension, are
perpetually falling into this shallow mistake. Having
caughr up the word urilitarian, while knowing
nothing whatever about it but its sound, thcy habitually express by it the rejeetion, or the neglect, of
pIea ure in some of its forms; of beaury, of ornament, or of arnusement.
Nor is the terrn thus
ignorantly misapplied solely in disparagernent, but
occasionally in cornpliment; as though it irnplied
superiority to frivolity and the mere pleasures of the
momento And thi perverted u e i the onJy one in
which the word i popularly known, and the one
fiorn whieh the new generation are acquiring their
ole notion of its rneaning. Thosc who introduced
the word I, but who had for many years discontinI.The author of rhis essay has reason for believing himsdf
ro be the first person who brought che word urilirarian
into u e. He did not invent it, but adopted it from a passing expression in Mr. Galt's Ali/wl" of tlie Parish. After
using it as a designation for several years, he and orhers
abandoned ir from a growing dislike to anything resernbling a badge or watchword of sectarian distinerion. Bur
as a narne for one single opinion, nor a ser of opinionsto denote the reeognition of uriliry a, a standard, not Jny
parricular way of applying it-the
terrn supplics a wanr
in the language, and offers, in many cases, a convenient
mode of avoiding tiresorne circunùocution.
Stuart Mill
17
ued it as a distinctive appellation, l1lay well feel
themselve called UpOI1te re urne ir, if by doing so
they can hope to contribute anything towards rescuing it from this utter degradation.
The ereed which aecepts as the foundation of
morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle,
holds that aetion are right in proporrion as they
tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to
produce the reverse of happine . By happiness is
intended pleasure, and thc absence of pain; by
unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.To
give a clear view of the moral standard set up by
the theory, l11L1chmore requires to be said; in particular, what things it includes in the ideas of pain
and pleasure; and te what extent this is lefi: an open
questiono But these supplernentary explanations do
not affect the theory of life on which this theory
of moraliry is grounded-namely,
rhat pleasure, and
freedorn 6-0111pain, are thc only things desirable as
ends; and rhat all desirable things (which are as
numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme)
are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in
thernselves, or as means te rhe prornotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain.
Now, such a theory of life exeites in many
rninds, and all10ng thern in some of the most
esrirnable in feeling and purpose, inveterate dislike.
To suppose that life has (as they express it) no higher end than pleasure-no
better and nobler object
of dc ire and pursuit-they
designate as utterly
rnean and groveling; as a doctrine worthy only of
swine, to whorn the follower of Epicurus were, at
a very early period, conternptuously
likened; and
rnodern h Iders of the d ctrine are oceasionally
rnade the subject of equally polite cornparisons by
its German, French, and English assailants.
When thus attacked, the Epieureans have always
answered, that it is not they, but their accusers, who
repre ent hurnan nature in a degrading light; since
rhe accusation supposes hurnan beings to be capable of no pleasures except rho e of which swine are
capable, If this upposition were true, the eharge
could not be gain aid, but would then be no longer
an imputation; for if che sources of pleasure were
precisely the sarne to hurnan beings and to swinc,
the rule of life whieh is good enough for the one
would be good enough for the other.The compariSOIl of the Epicurean life to that of beasts is felt as
degrading, precisely beeause a beast's pleasures do
not sati fy a hurnan being's coneeptions of happinesso Human beings have faculties more elevated
18
Chaprer Il Ut
II ITAlUA
ISM
rhan the animal appetite .. and when once made
conscious of thern, do not regard anything as happiness which does not include their grarificarion. I
do not, indeed, con ider the Epicureans to havc
been by any mcans faultless in drawing out their
scherne of consequences n-OI11the urilitarian princi ple, To do this in any sufficient manner, many
roic, as well as hristian elements require ro be
included. But there i no known Epicurean theory
of life which does not assign to the pleasure of the
intellect, of che feelings and irnaginarion, and of the
1110r31sentirnents, a much higher value as pleasures
than to those of mere sensarion. It must be adrnitted, however, thar utilitarian writer in general have
placed the superioriry of rnental over bodily pleasures chiefly in the greater permanency,
safety,
uncostlines , etc., of the former-that
is, in their
circurnstantial
advantages
rather than in their
inrrinsic nature, And on aJJ these points utilirarians
have fully proved their ca e; but they might have
taken che orhcr, and, as it may be called. higher
ground, with entire consistency. It is quite cornpatible with the principle of utility ro recognize the
fact, that some ieinds of plea ure are more de irable
and more valuable than other . It would be absurd
that while, in e rimaring ali orher things, qualiry i
considered as well as quantiry, the estirnarion of
pleasures should be supposed ro depend on quantity alone.
If I am asked. whar I rnean by ditference of
qualiry in pleasures, or what makes one pleasure
more valuable than another, merely as a pleasure,
except its being grcater in arnount, there is but
one po sible answer. Of two pleasures, if there bc
one to which ali or almost ali who have experi-
ence of borh give a decided preference, irrespcctive of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it,
that is the more desirable pleasure. If one of the
two is, by thosc who are competently
acquainted
with both, placed o far above the other that they
prefer it, even though knowing it to be attended
with a greater arnount of discontent. and would
not resign it for any quantity of rhe orher pleasure which rheir nature is capable of, we are jusrified in ascribing to rhe preferred enjoyment
a
uperiority in qualiry, o far outweighing
quantity as ro render it, in comparison, of small account.
ow it is an unquestionable
fact thar those
who are equally acquainted
with, and equa Il)'
capable of appreciating
and enjoying. both, do
give J mosr rnarked preference to the manner of
existence which ernploys their higher faculties.
Few hurnan
creatures
would
consent
ro be
changed inro any of the lower animals, for a
promise of the fullest allowance of a beast's pleasures: no intelhgenr hurnan being would con ent
to be a fool, no instrucred per on would be an
ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience
would be elf h and base, evcn though
they
should be per uaded thar rhe fool, rhe dunce, or
rhe rascal is bcrter satisfied wirh his lor than they
are with their . They would not resign what thcy
posses: more than he for the most complete satisfaetion of ali che desires which rhey have in comm n with hirn. Ifthey ever fancy thcy would, it is
only in ca cs of unhappiness
so extreme, that to
esca pc frorn it they would exchange their lot for
almost any other, however undesirablc
in their
own eye.,. A being of higher facultics requires
more ro make hirn happy, is capable probably of
more acute suffering, and certainly accessible ro it
ar more points, than one of an inferior rype: bur
in spire of rhe e liabilities, he can never really wish
to sink into whar he feels to be a lower grade of
existence. Wc Illay give whar explanation
we
please of thi unwillingness; wc may attr ibute ir ro
pride. a narne which i given indiscr iminarely to
some of the 1110t and to some of rhe leasr
estirnablc feelings of which mankind are capable;
wc l11ay refer it ro the love of liberry and personal independencc.
an appeal to which was with the
Scoics one of rhe 1110.,t effccrive mcans for rhe
inculcation
of it: ro the love of power, or ro
the I ve of excirernent, both of which do really
cntcr inro and contribure to it: bur its 1110stappropr iate appellarion is a seme of dignity, which ali
hurnan beings possess in one form or other, and
in some, though by no means in exact, proportion
to their highcr faculties, and whieh is so essential
a part of the happine s of tho: e in whom it i
strong, that nothing which conflicts with it could
be, othcrwise
rhan mornentar ily, an object of
de ire to them. Whoever supposes that rhis preference takcs place at a sacrifico ofhappincss-that
the supcrior being, in anything like equal circurnstances,
is not happicr
than che Illferiorconfounds che two very different ideas, of happincss, and contento Ir is indisputablc rhat rhe being
whose capacines of enjoyment
are low, has the
grearest chanee of having rhern fully satisfied: and
),,1/11
a highly endowed being will always feel that any
happiness which he can look for, as the world is
constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn to bear
its imperfections,
if they are at ali bearable; and
they will not make him envy the being who is
indeed unconscious
of the imperfections,
but
onJy because he feel not at ali the good which
rho e imperfections
qualify. It is bettcr to be a
human being di satisfìed than a pig sarisfied;
better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool sarisfied, And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different
opinion, it is becau e they onJy know their own
side of the questiono The other party to thc comparison know both ides.
lt may be objected, that many who are capable
of the higher pleasures, occasionally, under the
influence of temptation,
posrpone rhern to the
lower. But thi is quite cornpatible
with a fuU
appreciation of the intrin ic superioriry
of the
higher. Men often, frorn infirrniry of charactcr,
rnake their election for the nearer good, though
they know it to be the less valuable; and this no
less when the choice is berween two bodily pleasures, than when it is berween bodily and mental,
They pur ue sensual indulgences to the injury of
health, though perfectly aware that health i rhe
greater good. lt may be further objected, thar
many who begin with youthful enthusiasrn
for
everything noble, as they advance in years sink
into indolence
and selfishness. But l do not
believe that those who undergo thi vcry comrnon change,
voluntarily
choose
the lower
de cription of pleasure in prefcrence to the higher. r believe that before they devote themselves
exclusively to the one, they have already becorne
incapabJe of the other. Capaciry for the nobler
feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by
mere want of sustcnance; and in the majority of
young persons it speedily d.ies away if the occupation to which their position in life has devoted them and the ociety into which it has thrown
thern, are not favourable to keeping that higher
capacity in exercise. Men lose their high aspiration as they lose their intellectual taste , because
they have not time or opportunity
for indulging
them; and they addict thernsclves
to inferior
piea ures, not because they deliberately
prefer
them, but because thcy are either thc only ones to
which they havc access, or rhe only one which
tuart Mi/l
19
they are any longer capable of enjoying. lt may be
questioned
wherher any one who has rernained
equally susceprible to borh cla ses of plcasures,
ever knowingly and calmly preferred the lower;
though many, in ali ages, have broken down in an
ineffectual attempt to cornbine both.
Frorn this verdict of the only cornpetenr
judges, I apprchend there can be no appeal. On a
question which is the best worth having of two
pleasures, or which of rwo modes of existence is
the rnost grateful to the feelings, apart from its
moral attributes and frorn its consequences,
the
judgment
of those who are qualified by knowledge of both, or, if they differ, that of the majority Jl110ng thern, must be adrnitted as final. And
there needs be the less hesitation to accept this
judgment respecting the qualiry of pleasures, ince
there i no other tribunal to be referred to even
011 the question of quantity. What means are there
of determining
which i che acutest of rwo pains,
or the intensest of rwo pleasurable sensations,
except the generaJ suffrage of those who are
familiar with both? Neither pains nor pleasures
are hornogeneous,
and pain is always hetcrogeneous with pleasure. What is there to decide
whether a particular pleasure is worth purchasing
ar the cost of a particular pain, exccpt the feelings
and judgment
of the experienced?
When, therefore, tho e feelings and judgrncnt
declarc the
pleasures derived from the higher faculties to be
preferable in leind, apart frorn the question
of
intensity, to those of which thc animai nature, disjoined from the higher faculties, is susceptible,
they are entitled on this subject to the same
regard.
I have dwelt on this point, as being a necessary
part of a perfectly just conception
of Utility or
Happiness, considered
as the directive rule of
hurnan conduct. But it is by no rncans an indispensable condition tO the acceptance of the utilitar ian tandard; for that tandard is not the agenr's
own greatest happine s, but the greatest al11011nt
of happiness altogether: and if it may possibly be
doubted whether a noble character is always the
happier for irs noblenc s, rhere can be no doubt
that it makes other people happier, and that the
world in genera! is immcnsely a gainer by it.
Utilitarianism,
therefore, could only attain its end
by the generaI culrivation of nobleness of character, even if each individuaI were only benefired by
~2
o-
Chapter H
UTILITARIA
I M
we could be deprived of anything che next instant
by whoever wa momentarily stronger than ourselves. Now this most indispensable of all nece sarie , afier physical nutriment, cannot be had,
unless the machinery for providing it i kept
unintermittedJy in active play. Our notion, therefore, of the claim we have on our fellow-creatures
to join in making safe for us the very groundwork
of our existence, gathers feelings around it so
much more intense than those concerned in any
of the more common cases of utility, that the difference in degree (as is often che ca e in p ychology) becornes a real difference in kind. The claim
a sume that character of ab oluteness, that apparent infiniry, and incornrnen urabiliry with all
other considerations, which consti tute the distinction between the feeling of right and wrong
and that of ordinary expediency and inexpediency. The feelings concerned are so powerful, and
we count so positively on finding a re ponsive
feeling in others (ali being alike intere ted), that
Ol/l?'11 and should grow into must, and recognized
indispensability becornes a moral nccessiry, analogous to physical, and often not inferior to it in
binding force exhorted.
If the preceding analy i ,or omething re ernbling it, be nor the correct account of the notion
of justice-if justice be totally independent of
utility, and be a standard per se, which the rnind
can recognize by simple intro pection of itself-it
i hard to understand why thar intcrnal oracle is
so arnbiguous, and why so many things appear
either ju t or unju t, according to the light in
which they are regarded.
We are continually informed that Utiliry is an
uncertain standard, which every different person
interprets differencly, and that there is no safety
but in the irnmutable, ineffaceable, and unrnistakable dictates ofjustice, which carry their evidence
in thernselves, and are independent of the fìuctuations of opinion. One would suppo e from this
that on questions of justice there could be no
controversy; that if we take that for our rule, its
application co any given case could leave u in a
little doubt a a mathernatical demonstration.
o
far is this from being the fact, that there i a. much
difference of opinion, and a much di cu sion,
about what i just, as about what is useful to sociery, Not only have different nations and individuals different notions of jusrice, but in the rnind of
one and thc sarne individual, justice is not some
one rule, principle, or maxirn, but many, which do
not always coincide in their dictates, and in
choosing betwcen which, he is guided either by
some extraneous standard, or by hi own personal predilections.
For instance, there are some who S3ythat it is
unjust ro punish any one for the sake of exarnple
to others; that punishment is just, onJy when
intended for the good of the sufferer hirn elf.
Others maintain the extrerne reverse, contending
that to punish persons who have attained years of
discretion, for their own benefit, i desporism and
injustice, since if che matter at issue is solely their
own good, no one has a right to control their
own judgment of it; but that they may justly be
punished to prevent evil to others, this being the
exercise of the legitimate right of elf-defen e.
Mr. wen, again, affirrns thar it is unju t to punish at all; for the crirninal did not make his own
character: his education, and the circurnsrances
which surrounded him, have made him a criminal, and for these hc i not responsible. All these
opinions arc extremely plausible: and so long as
the question is argued as one of ju tice imply,
withour going down to the principles which lie
under justice and are the source of its authority,
I am unable to see how any of these reasoners can
be refured. For in truth every ne of the three
builds upon rules of justice confessedJy true. The
first appeals to the acknowledged injustice of singling out an individuai, and making a sacrifice,
without his con ent, for other people' benefit.
The second relie on rhe acknowledged ju tice of
self-defen e, and the admitted inju tice of forcing
one per on to conform to anorhers notions of
what constitutes his good. The Owenite invokes
the admitted principle, that it is unjust to punish
any one for what he cannot help. Each i triumphant o long a he is not cornpelled to take
into consideration any other maxirns of justice
than the one he has selected; but as soon as their
several maxirns are brought face to face, each disputant eerns ro have exaccly as rnuch to ay for
himself as the other . No one of thern can carry
out his own notion of justice without trampling
upon another equally binding. These are difficuJtie ; they have always been felt co be such; and
many d vice have been invented to turn rather
than to overcorne thern. As a refuge from the last
Ja/1tI
of the three, men imagined what rhey called the
freedorn of the will-fancying
thar rhey could
nor ju tify punishing a man whose will is in a
rhoroughly hateful state, unles it be supposed ro
have come inro that rate through no inAuence of
anterior circurnstances. To escape from rhe othcr
difficultie , a favorite contrivance
has becn the
ficrion of a contract, whereby at some unknown
period aIl the members
of socicry engaged to
obey the laws, and consenred to be puni hed for
any di obedience ro thern, thereby giving ro their
legislator rhe righr, which it i assumed rhey
would not otherwise
have had, of punishing
them, either for their own good or for that of
ociery. Thi happy thought was considered to get
rid of the whole difficulty, and to legitimarc the
inAiction of puni hment, in virtue of another
received maxirn of jusrice, valenti noufu illj//ri(/that i not unjust which is done with the consent
of rhe per 00 who is supposed ro be hurt by ir. I
need hardly remark, rhar even if rhe consent werc
not a mere ficrion, rhis maxim i nor uper ior 111
authority to the others which it is broughr in ro
uper ede. It i, on the conrrary, an insrrucrive
pecimen of the loose and irregular manner in
which upposed principles
of justice grow up.
Thi particular one evidently carne inro use as a
help to the coarse exigencies of courts of law,
which are omerirnes obliged ro be conrent wirh
very uncertain presurnptions,
on accounr of the
greater evils which would often arise from any
arternpt 00 their parr ro cur finer. But even courts
of law are nor able ro adhere consi rently to the
maxim, for they allow volunrary engagemenrs
ro
be ser aside on the ground of fraud, and omerime on that of mere mistake or misinformation.
Again, when the legitimacy of inAicting punishrnent is admitted, how many conAicting conception of justice come to lighr in discussing the
proper apportionrnent
of punishrnents ro offen.es.
o rule on the ubject recornmends
irself so
rrongly to the primitive and spontaneous
sentirnent ofju tice, as the lex talionis, an eye for an eye
and a tooth for a toorh. Though this principle of
theJewish and of the Moharnmedan
law has been
general1y abandoned
in Europc as a practical
maxirn, there is, I uspect, in rnost rninds, a secret
hankering after it; and when retribution accidenrallyfalls on an offender in that precise shape, the
generai feeling of satisfaction
evinced
bears
Stuart ,Hi/l
43
witness how narural i the sentirnent to which this
repayment in kind is acceptable. With many, the
test of'jusnce in penaI inAiction is that che punishment should be proporrioned
ro the offense;
meaning that ir should be exactly mea ured by the
mora! guilr of che culprir (wharever be their standard for measuring moral guilt): the consideration,
what arnount of punishrnenr is necessary to deter
from the offense, having norhing ro do with the
question of ju tice, in cheir esrimarion: while there
are others ro whorn rhar consideration:
ali in all:
who maintain rhar it i not just, at least for man, ro
inAict on a fellow creature, whatcver may be his
offenses., an)' amount of suffering beyond the lea r
that \ViU suffice ro prevent him frOI11 repearing,
and orhers frorn imitaring, his misconduct.
To take anorhcr example from a subject already
once referred to. In a co-operative industr ial associarion, is it just or not that talent or skill should
give a ritle to superior remuneration?
On the negative side of the quesrion it is argued, that whoever does the best he can, deserves equally well, and
ought not in jusrice to be pur in a position of inferiority for no fault of his own; that superi or abilitic have already advantages more than enough, in
the admiration they excite, rhe personal infìuence
they cornmand, and the internai sources of sarisfaction attending thcm, without adding to these a
superior share of the world' goods; and that society is bound in jusrice rather to make compensation
to the less favored, for this unrner ited inequality of
advanrages, than to aggravate it. On the conrrary
side it i contended, that sociery rcceives more from
the more efficient laborer; that his services being
more useful, ociery owe him a larger return for
thern; that a greater share of the joint result is actually his work, and not to aUow his claim to it is a
kind of robbery; that if he is only to receive as
much as orhers, he can only be justly required to
produce as rnuch, and to give a smaller arnount of
rime and exertion, proportioned
to his superi or
efficiency, Who shall decide between the e appeals
to conAiccing principles of jusrice? Justice ha in
this case rwo ideo ro it, which it is irnpos iblc to
bring into hannony, and rhe rwo disputants have
cho en oppo ite sides; the one looks to what ir i
jusr that the individual should receive, the other to
what it is just that the community
should give.
Each, frOI11 his own point of view, is unanswerable;
and any choice
berween
thern,
on grounds
of
44
Chapter Il UTILITARIANISM
justice,
must be perfectly
arbitrary.
ocial uriliry
alone can decide the preference.
How rnany, again, and how irreconcilable, are
the tandards ofju tice te which reference is made
in di cussing the repartition
of taxation.
ne
opinion is, that payrnent to the tate hould be in
nurnerical proportion te pecuniary means.
thers
rhink that justice dicrates what they term graduared taxation-taking
a higher percentage
from
those who have more te pare. In point of natura!
ju tice a strong ca e might be made for disregarding means altogerher, and taking the sarne absolute
sum (whenever it could be got) from everyone; as
the sub cribers to a me ,or to a club, all pay the
sarne sum for the same privilege , whether they
can all equally afford it or not. Since the pro tection (it rnight be said) of law and government
is
afforded te, and i equaliy required by all, there is
no injustice in making all buy it at the sarne price.
It is reckoned justice, not inju tice, that a dealer
should charge to alI customers the arne price for
che sarne arricle, not a price varying according to
their means of payment. This doctrine, as applied
to taxation fìnds no advocare , because ir confìicts
so strongly with man' feelings ofhumanity
and of
social expediency; but the principle
of justice
which it invokes is a true and as binding as those
which can be appealed to against it.Accordingly
it
exerts a tacir influence on the line of defense
employed for other modes of assessing taxation.
People feel obliged to argue that the State does
more for the rich than for the poor, as a justifìcation for its tak.ing more from them: though rhis i
in reality not true, for the rich would be far better
able to protect thernselve ,in the absence oflaw or
government,
than the poor, and indeed would
probably be uccessful in converting the poor into
their slaves, Other ,again, o far defer to the sarne
conception ofjustice, as to rnaintain rhat all hould
pay an equal capitation tax for the protection of
their person
(these being of equal value to all),
and an unequal tax for the protection
of their
property, which is unequal. To this others reply,
that the ali of one man is as valuable to him as the
all of another. Frorn these confu ions there i no
other mode of extricarion than the urilitarian.
Is, then the difference between the just and the
expedient a merely imaginary distinction?
Have
mankind been under a delu ion in thinking that
ju tice is a more
acred thing than policy, and that
the lattcr ought only to be listcned to afier the former has been satisfìed? By no means. The exposition we have given of the nature and ori gin of the
sentirnent, recognize. a real distinction; and no one
of those who profess the most sublime conternpt
for the conseqLIence~ of actions as an elernent in
their morality, attache more importance to the distinction than I do. While I dispute rhe pretensions
of any theory which sets up an imaginary standard
of'jusrice not grounded on, utility, I account the justice which is grounded on utility te be the chief
part, and incornparably the ma t sacred and binding
part, of all moraliry. justice i a narne for certain
cla . es of mora! rules, which concern the essentials
of human well-being more nearly, and are therefore
of more absolute obligation, than any other rules for
the guidance of life; and the notion which we have
found to be of the e. sence of the idea of ju ticethat of a right residing in an individual-implies
and restifies to thi. more binding obligation.
The moral rule which forbid mankind to hurt
onc another (in which we must never forget te
include wrongful interference
with each other'
freedorn) are more vital to hurnan well-being than
any maxirns, however important, which only point
out the best mode 01' managing some department of
human affairs. They have also the peculiariry, that
they are the main elernent in deterrnining
the
whole of the social feelings of mankind. It is their
observance which alone preserves peace among
human beings; if obedience ro them wcre not the
rule, and disobedience
the exceprion, every one
would see in every one else an cncmy, against
whorn he rnust be perperually guarding himself.
What i hardly le important, the e are the precepts
which rnankind have the stronge t and the rnost
direct inducernents for impressing upon one anothero By rnercly giving to each other prudential
in truction or exhortation, they may gain, or think
they gain, nothing: in inculcating on each other the
duty of positive benefìcence they have an unrnistakable interest, but far less in degree; a person may
possibly not need the benefits of others; but he
always needs that they should not do him hurt.Thu
the moralities which protecr every individual from
being harrned by others, either directly or by being
hindered in his freedom of pursuing his own good,
are ar once those which he himself has most at
heart, and those which he has the srrongest intere t
in publishing and enforcing by word and deed. It is
Jo/m Stuan Mil!
by a per on' ob ervance of the e that his fitness to
exist as one of the fellowship of human beings is
tested and decided; for on that depends his being a
nuisance or not to tho e with whom he is in contact, ow it is these rnoralities prirnarily which
compo e the obligations
of jusrice. The 1110 t
marked ca es of inju tice, and those which give che
rene to the feeling of repugnance which characterizes the sentimcnt, are acts of wrongful aggre sion,
or wrongfu! exerci e of power over sorneone: the
next are tho e which con i t in wrongfully wirhholding frorn him sornething which i hi due--in
both cases, inflicting on him a positive hurt, eirher
in the form of direct uffering, or of thc privation of
ome good which he had reasonable ground, cither
of a phy ical or of a ocial kind, for counting upon.
The same powerful motives which cOJ11l11and
the observance of the e primary rnoralities, cnjoin
the punishrnent of those who violate rhern; and as
the impulses of sclf-defense, of defense of orhers, and
of vengeance, are ali called forth against such persons, rerriburion, or evil for evil, bccornes closely
connected with the entiment ofjustice, and is universally included in the idea. Good for good is also
one of the dictates of justice; and this, rhough its
social urility is evident, and though it carries with it
a natural human feeling, has nor at first sight that
obviou connection with hurt or injury, which,
exisnng in che mo t elementary case. of just and
UI~lIt, is the ource of the characteristic inten ity of
the entiment.But the connection, though le s obviOUS,JSnot less real. He who accepts benefits, and
denies a rerurn of thern when needed, inflicts a real
hurt, by disappointing one of the mo t natural and
reasonable of expectations, and one which he rnust
at least tacitly have encouraged, otherwisc the benefits would seldom have been conferred. The important rank, among human evil and wrongs, of the
disappointment of expectation, is shown in the fact
that ir constitutes the principal criminaliry of rwo
such highly IDU110ralacts as a breach of fì icndship
and a breach of premi e. Few hurts
beings can ustain are greater, and
more, than when that on which they
with full assurance relied, fails thern
which hurnan
none wound
habirually and
in the hour of
need: and few wrongs are greater than this merc
wirhholding of good; none excite more resentmenr,
either m the person uffering, or in a sympathizing
spertator,The principle, therefore, of giving to cach
what they de erve, that is, good for good JS well as
45
evil for evil. is nor only included within the idea of
jusrice as we havc defined ir, but is a proper object
of that intensiry of sentimenr, which places the just,
in hurnan e timarion, above the simply expedient.
Mo t of the maxims of justice current in thc
world, and eommonly appealed to in its rran action .are simply instrurnental to carrying into effccr
the principles ofjustice which we nave now spoken
of. That a person is only responsible for what he has
don e voluntarily. or could voluntarily have avoided,
that it is unju t to condernn <1nyperson unheard:
that the punishmenr ought ro be proportioncd
to
the offen e, and the like, are maxirns intended to
prevent the just principle of evi! for evil from being
perverted to the inAiction of evil without that justificarion. Thc greater part of these cornrnon maxims have come into u. e frorn the practice of courts
of ju tice, which have been narurally led ro a more
complete
rccognition
and elaboration
chan was
likely ro suggest itsclf to others, of the rules necessary to cnable rhem ro fulfill their double funetion-of
inflicting punishrnenr when due, and of
awarding to each person his nght.
That first of judicial virrues, impartialicy, is an
obligation of jusrice, partly for the reason last menrioned: as being a necessary condition of thc fultìllrnenr of the other obligations of justice. 13m this i,
not the only source of rhe exalted rank, among
hurnan obligarion , of rho e maxirns of equaliry and
irnpartialiry, which, both in popular estimation and
in that of the most enlightened are included arnong
the precepts of jusrice. In one point of view, they
may be con idered as corollaries from the principles
already laid down. lf it is a dury to do to cach
according to hi deserts, returning good for good as
well as repressing evil by evil, it necessarily follows
that we should trcar ali equally well (when no higher dury forbids) who have deserved equally well of
115, and that ociety should treat ali equally wcll who
have deserved equally well of il, that i , who havc
deserved equally well absolutely, This is thc highesr
ab tract standard of social and distributive justice;
towards which all instirurions, and che efforts of ali
virtuous citizens, should be made in the urrnost
po ible degree co converge. But thi great moral
dury rests upon a stili deeper foundarion, being <1
direct ernanation from the first principle of rnorals,
and not a mere logica! corollary from secondary
or derivative docrrmes. lr is involved in the very
meaning of Utility, or the Greatest Happiness
46
Chapter Il
UTIIITAIlIANISM
Principle. That principle is a rncre forrn of words
without rational ignification, unJe
one person 's
happine , suppo ed equal in degree (with the proper allowance made for kind), i counted for exactly
as much a anothers. Those condition
being supplied, Bentharn'
dicrum, "everybody to count for
one, nobody for more than one", rnighr be written
under the principle of uriliry as an explanatory
commentary". The equal claim of everybody to
happiness in the estirnation of the rnoralist and the
-l.This implicarion, m rhe firsr principle of the urilirarian
scherne, of perfect imparnaliry
between
per~om. i,
regarded by Mr. Hcrbcrt Spenccr (in his '"ciaI5r"ri(s) as
a disproof of rhe prctellSlOllS of uriliry w be a sufficienr
guide to right; since (he says) che pnnciple of uriliry presupposes che anter ior principle, thar everybody has an
equal righe ro happiness. It may be more correctlv
described as supposing that equal amounrs of happiness
are equally desirablc, wherhcr fele by che sarne or by differenr persons. This, however, IS not a presupposieion; nor
a premi e needful ro support the principi e of uuliry, bue
rhe very principlc irsclf for whar IS che principle of util")', if ir be nor that "happmess" and "desirablc" are ~ynonymous
terrns? If rhere is any anterior
prmciple
irnplied. ir can bc no other than this, rhar the trurhs 01'
arirhmeric are applicable ro the valuanon 01' happmess,
as of ali other measurable quannnes.
(Mr. Herbert
pencer, lJ1 a private cornnunucanon
on
rhe subjecr of the preceding
ote, objecrs to being considered an oppone m of utihtarranism, and statcs thar h"
regards happiness as che ultimate end of moraliry: but
deerns that end only parually arrainable by empmcal
gcncralizations frorn the observcd rcsulrs of conduce. ,1I1d
cornpletely artainable only by deducmg, from che laws of
life and rhe condirions of existence, what kinds of acrion
necessarily rend w produce happiness, and wh,ir kmds w
produce unhappiness. What thc exccprion of the word
"necessarily," I have no dissent w express from this doctrine; and (omitting that word) I arn not aware that any
modem advocate of utilitarianism IS of .1 difTerenr opinion. Bentham, cerrainly, to whorn in rhe Sotial Statics
Mr. Spencer particularly referred, is, leasr of ali writcrs,
chargeable wirh unwillingness ro deduce the effecr of
actions on happincss from che laws of human nature and
che umversal condinon
of human life, The comrnon
charge against hirn is of relymg too exclusively upon such
deductions. and declining alrogerher to be bound by
rhe generalizarions
frolli specific experrence
which
Mr. pencer thinks that urihtarinns generali)' confine
thernselves to, My own opmion
(and, as I coli cct.
Mr. Spencer's) 15,chat III ethICs, JS 111ali other branches of
sclemific study, the comihcnce of the resulrs ofboth the e
processes. each corroborating dnd verIfYll1g the ocher. is
requisite w give ro any generai proposition the kll1d
degree of evidellce which constitutes scientific proof.)
legislator, involves an equal claim ro alI rhe rneans of
happiness, cxcept in so far a the inevitable conclitions of hurnan life, and rhe generai interest, in
which that of every individuai i mcluded, set lirnits to the maxim; and those lirnits ought to be srricrIy construed. A every other maxirn of ju tice, so
this is by no means applied or held applicable universally: on the contrary, as I have already rernarked,
it bends to every persons idea. of ocial expediency. But in whatever case ir is deerned applicable at
ali. it is held to be the clictate of ju tice. AlI persons
are deerned to have a ri.l!ht [O equaliry of trearment,
except when some recognized social expediency
require the reverse.And hence ali social inequaliries
which have ceased to bc considered expedient,
as urne the character not of simple inexpediency,
but of injustice, and appear so tyrannical, that
people are apt to wonder how they ever could have,
Been tolerated-tòrgetful
that they thernselves perhaps rolerate other inequalities under an equalJy
mistaken norion of expediency, the correction of
which would rnake that which they approve seern
quite as mon rrous as what they have ar lasr learnr
to condemn. The entire hrsrory of social improvement has been a serie of transitions, by which one
cusrom or instirurion afier another, frorn being a
supposed primary neces: ity of social existence, has
passed inro the rank of a universaìly tigmatized
injustice and tyranny. o it has been with the clisrincrions of laves and freemcn, nobles and serfs,
patricians and plebeians; and so it will be, and in
parr already is, with the aristocracte: of color, race,
and sex,
It appears frorn what has been sard, that justice
is a name for certain moral requirernents, which,
rcgarded collectively, stand higher in the scale of
ocial uriliry, and are rherefore of more pararnounr
obligation,
than any others: though
particular
case. may occur in which some orher social dury
is so importanr,
as ro overrule any one of rhe
generaI maxirn of justicc. Thus, to savc a life, it
may not only be allowable, but a dury, to teal, or
take by force, the nece sary food or medicine, or
ro kidnap, and cornpel to officiare, the onJy qualified medicai pracritioner. In such cases, as we do
not calJ anything justice which is not a virtue, we
u ually ay, not that justice must give way to some
other moral principle, but that what is ju t in
ordinary ca e. i ,by rea.on of that other principle,
not just in the parricular case. By this useful
)01111 SCI/arI
accommodation of language, the character of
indefea ibility artributed to ju rice i kept up, and
we are aved frorn the nece iry of maintaining
that there can be laudable injustice.
The con iderarion which have now been
adduced re olve, I concei ve, the only real difficulty in the utilitarian theory of morals. It h alway
been evident that ali ca es of justicc are also ca e
of expediency; the difference i in the peculiar
sentiment which attache to the forrner, a contradi tingui hed frorn the latter. If thi characteristic sentiment h been ufficiently accounted for;
if thcre is no necessity to as urne for it any peculiariryof origin; if it i.. imply the natural feeling of
resentment, moralized by being made coexten ive
with the demands of social good; and if thi feel-
i\Jil/
47
ing not only doe but ought to exi t in all the
cla e of a e to which the idea of ju tice correspond -that
idea no longer pre ents itself as a
twnbling block to the urilitarian ethics. Ju tice
remains the appropriate narne for cerrain social
utilitic which are vastly more irnportant, and
therefore more ab olute and imperative, than any
ther are a a cla (though not, more o than other may be in particuJar ca e ); and which, therefore, ought to be, as well as narurally are, guarded
by a sentiment not only different in degree, but
also in kind; distingui hed from the milder feeling
which attache to the mere idea of promoting
hurnan plea ure or convenience, at once by the
more definite nature of its cornmands, and by che
temer character of its an tions.
'r
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