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A Critique of Mills Proof of the Principle of Utility Introduction In his work Utilitarianism J S Mill asserts that happiness is desirable and the only thing desirable as an end all other things being only desirable as means to that end He goes on to offer a proof of the principle of utility which may be defined as the greatest good for the greatest number through which he hopes to show that the moral worth of an action consists in its conduciveness or otherwise to the general happiness In this essay I will attempt to show that Mills proof is unsound and that unrestricted utilitarianism is an undesirable moral doctrine at both societal and personal levels Mills Proof At the commencement of his enquiry into of what sort of proof the principle of utility is susceptible Mill declares that to be incapable of proof by reasoning is common to all first principles to the first premises of our knowledge as well as to those of our conduct Ch4 Rather than present a rational argument in favour of utilitarianism then Mill asks his reader to reflect upon their inner motives for action and suggests that these are based upon a desire for ones own happiness This however being a fact we have not only all the proof which the case admits of but all which it is possible to require that happiness is a good he asserts further as each persons happiness is a good to that person the general happiness therefore is a good to the aggregate of all persons Ch4 Mill then goes on to demonstrate that all other motivating forces behind human action the desire for wealth for power for fame or to act virtuously are particular manifestations of our desire for personal happiness and thus are subsumable to it as he writes there is in reality nothing desired except happiness Ch4 Mills attempted
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