“…simply make things better for someone else, as if I were to be born again, and that someone else, and it doesn't have to be me, but it could be someone like me, that they would have a better life than I had, that everyone was better. There is something seriously wrong with everyone, and that is something I observed when I was very young. We are the problem, and we need to become better, because we are fucking everything up.”
“So this is who I am. There is something seriously wrong with everyone and we need to fix it, if not for us, then for the future generations."
"Everything I have done in this life, and everything I will do, is for this purpose.”

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Creating the greatest happiness - A look into Mill's Utilitarianism (day 185)








So I will be continuing with the Moral Philosophy theme that I started yesterday with a post on Kant's Categorical Imperative .  I mentioned Mill's Utilitarianism, which was another topic covered in my introduction to Ethics course in Reed College. Let me say that Mill's writing is much more clearer or easier to read than Kant's writings. I copied and pasted this from wikipedia.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism_%28book%29
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The essay is divided into five chapters, namely
  1. General Remarks;
  2. What Utilitarianism Is;
  3. Of the Ultimate Sanction of the Principle of Utility;
  4. Of What Sort of Proof the Principle of Utility is Susceptible; and
  5. On the Connection Between Justice and Utility.
In the first two chapters, Mill aims to define precisely what utilitarianism claims in terms of the general moral principles that it uses to judge concrete actions, as well as in terms of the sort of evidence that is supposed to be given for such principles. He hopes thus to do away with some common misunderstandings of utilitarianism, as well as to defend it against philosophical criticisms, most notably those of Kant. In the first chapter, he distinguishes two broad schools of ethical theory – those whose principles are defended by appeals to intuition and those whose principles are defended by appeals to experience. He identifies utilitarianism as one of the empirical theories of ethics.
In the second chapter, Mill formulates a single ethical principle, from which he says all utilitarian ethical principles are derived:
The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest-Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.
Most importantly, it is not the agent's own greatest happiness that matters "but the greatest amount of happiness altogether."[1] Utilitarianism, therefore, can only attain its goal of greater happiness by cultivating the nobleness of individuals so that all can benefit from the honour of others. In fact, notes Mill, Utilitarianism is actually a "standard of morality" which uses happiness of the greater number of people as its ultimate goal.
The Greatest-Happiness Principle, deals with doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people. With the famous words "it is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied", (260) Mill touts the importance of being well brought up and knowledgeably curious about the world, and understanding higher pleasures such as art and music, than to be uneducated and complacent. One need not be personally satisfied with one's life to be able to contribute to the "total sum happiness" of a society.
Mill goes on to discuss what is meant by "pleasure" and "pain" in his formulation of the Greatest-Happiness Principle, to argue that it encompasses intellectual as well as sensual pleasures, and to offer a defence of intellectual pleasures as preferable not only in degree, but also in kind, to sensual pleasures. Throughout the volume, Mill writes mainly as if addressing opponents of utilitarianism, but here he is trying also to criticise and refine the understanding of the Greatest-Happiness Principle offered by earlier utilitarians, Jeremy Bentham in particular.
In the third chapter, Mill discusses questions concerning the motivation to follow utilitarian moral principles. He explores ways in which both external and internal sanctions – that is, the incentives provided by others and the inner feelings of sympathy and duty – encourage people to act in such a way as to promote general happiness.[2]
The fourth chapter offers Mill's attempt at an inductive proof of the Greatest-Happiness Principle, on the grounds that happiness and happiness alone is desired as an end in itself.
The fifth chapter concludes the essay with a discussion of problems concerning utilitarianism, as well as the concept of justice. Critics of utilitarianism often claim that judging actions solely in terms of their consequences is incompatible with a foundational and universally binding concept of justice. Mill sees this as the strongest objection to utilitarianism and sets out to argue
  1. that a binding concept of justice can be explained in strictly utilitarian terms; and
  2. that the problems created by the utilitarian explanation are difficult problems for any concept of justice whatsoever, whether utilitarian or not.
Finally, to be truly happy, Mill believes that we must turn our attention away from our own happiness towards other objects and ends, such as doing good for others and such high pleasures in life as art and music.

  ~~~~~

So I would like to now explain what I understood Mills to mean, in my own words. So basically Utilitarianism, is about everyone's needs/benefits being considered. So if you do something that harms another, even if it increases your happiness, it is not acceptable, because you are causing suffering. So whenever you decide to act, you need to consider how others will be effected. This is the essence. This sounds somewhat similar to Kant's Categorical Imperative, what we looked at last time.  It also is similar or the same to Jesus' Do onto others what you would have them do onto you (aka the Golden Rule). These three people and their words are similar because they require you to place your perspective in the lives of everyone, to see things through their eyes, and stand within their shoes, within calculating and making your decisions. That is the essence of the message and part of what I find each to be so important.

There is something else that Utilitarianism has that is important to note. One has to consider oneself equal to everyone else. This means your happiness or contentment is just as important as anyone or everyone else's. So specifically the "greatest happiness principle" means that we live by creating/making decisions that create the greatest total amount of happiness. So if you have a decision or action that would benefit just you, or would benefit many more people, the decision to be made that would be best would be to help more people.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to consider other people's happiness, as less or more important than my own, and I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to consider my happiness as more or less important than another person's happiness.

I forgive myself for accepting and allowing myself to limit the definition of happiness to one form, instead of it being the absolute form of what it means to really live the best life, so that happiness takes the highest or best or ideal form possible, and not be limited to simply one context or one area of life, but to include all contexts and all areas, so as to be all inclusive, instead of divisive.

When and as I am speaking to someone about, happiness, what is best for all, or what is ideal, or how we should live or direct our lives, and why- I stop and I breathe- I realize that it is best to speak in and use the language of the average person, or the common language, and in the common language, happiness is quite superficial, so if I use happiness, to be sure, exact and precise to mean exactly what I intend to mean that the other person understands. I realize too that I have the ability to qualify or explain what I mean, however if there are a few words that refer to what I mean, that it is best to save time and use those words, if they are sufficient to explain the point I wish to express. I realize the purpose of communication to express a point and that point is understood, and I realize that the original purpose of philosophy may not be to communicate clearly, however, I cannot say for sure, because great philosophers of the past spoke a different language than the one spoken today in modern english, and were also translated from other languages, so it is certainty there is much miscommunication or misunderstanding based on the conventional language used today compared to the past - I realize that it is best that we each become effective speakers and communicators, to explain/speak our own philosophies, rationalities, ways of living/beings, religions, ways of perceiving the world, and to focus and develop that which we are, our words, statements, and beliefs, to be that which is best or best for ourselves, and best for everyone, so that we do not rely on any single individual to inform us of who we are, whoever that person may be, but to instead, to develop who we are ourselves, because of how aware we are that much can be loss in communication, and so it is best to not trust someone words, but to question, and find the root or the principle behind the words so we can live that in all contexts and situations. So in essence, keep what is best, for ourselves, and everyone.

I commit myself to speak with the intention or starting point to create the perception in the other person, exactly what it is that I see and understand, and so change how I speak, and what words I speak, and stop any reactions or possessions of energy, to allow me to be effective in perceiving the other person in real time, and to act immediately to direct their perception and awareness to the exact points relevant to creating their perception.

Lastly, if humans were to self-honestly live utilitarianism, they would have to include the happiness and suffering of every single person on the planet, and thus self-honestly have to end poverty, starvation, and wars. Because those sufferings, can't and won't change no matter how happy you make yourself, and you will feel great once you take care of those points, so all the reason to sort out those massive forms of suffering, which have become systematized. If you would like a practical way of going about HOW to do this, I suggest looking into LIG, or the living income guaranteed. They have the how, you just need to act on it.




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