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Paper Topic:

Utilitarianism

In Utilitarianism ' John Stuart Mill makes a distinction between higher ' and lower ' pleasures . The distinction is intended to demonstrate that distinctively human pleasures are superior to merely animal ones . How well does he succeed at showing this

The idea that there are higher ' and `lower ' pleasures is one that stems from the very beginning of philosophy , although in the hands of John Stuart Mill within his famous Utilitarianism it becomes a central focus . Mill convincingly argues that if a person has experienced both the higher and the lower pleasures , then he /she

will naturally tend to prefer the higher . But if someone has only been subjected to lower pleasures he is somehow a less fulfilled human being

The distinctively human pleasures that Mill identified tended to be those that would only appeal to a few people , normally the elite of society who had the time and money to indulge in them . For example , high art as is found with opera houses or within expensive paintings in luxurious art galleries is often only enjoyed by a few . But this few is the most exemplary example of the most human ' of pleasures Conversely , the lower pleasures tend to be those that appeal just to the senses : often in a purely physical sense

These kinds of pleasures are to be found within the lower classes and are characterized by instant and easily understood appeals to pleasure In many ways this argument makes sense , even thought it does not fit within the egalitarian ideals of today . In many ways it also sits uneasily with the whole focus of utilitarianism which may be essentially summed u[ as the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people . The valorization of high (human ) pleasures over low (more animalistic ) ones essentially suggests that the quality of happiness rather than the quality , at least as far as pleasures are concerned is of the most importance

Mill used his division between high and low pleasures to suggest that certain individuals who owned more property , and thus who were more likely to indulge in the higher pleasures , should have greater voting power than the masses . This is an essentially elitest system , but one which makes sense within the premises that Mill sets forward . If the higher pleasures are of greater human ' character than the lower ones then the people who enjoy them would be more worthy of control within society . They would be more likely to exhibit the kind of self-control needed to preserve the happiness of the masses . The hedonistic tendencies of those masses imply that they cannot be trusted with full power over their destinies

To conclude , the idea that some pleasures are superior ' to others is something that most people accept in theory , but would not readily admit in public . Mill however belonged to a perhaps more honest age than ours and is convincing in his arguments for the superiority of certain pleasures over others . The conclusions that he draws from those arguments are more problematic however : the...

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