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Utilitarianism John Stuart Mill Chapter 1 General Remarks Summary Mill begins his essay by observing that very little progress has been made toward developing a set of standards by which to judge moral right and wrong For more than two thousand years people have been attempting to determine the basis of morality but have not come any closer to consensus Mill acknowledges that in the sciences it is common to have disagreement about such bases or foundations However he argues that in science particular truths can still have meaning even if we do not understand the principles underlying them in contrast in areas such as law or ethics a statement unfounded upon a generally accepted theoretical basis has very little validity at all In these areas unlike in science all action exists to forward a particular end thus it would seem that rules of action would depend on what ends are being pursued Mill therefore argues that in order to know what morality dictates it is necessary to know by what standard human actions should be judged Mill then addresses the issue of moral instinct and whether the existence of such an instinct would eliminate the need for determining the foundation of morality He argues it does not First the existence of such a moral sense is disputable Secondly even if this sense does exist it does not tell us whether something is right or wrong in a particular case Rather this instinct supplies only general principles Thus although general laws are a necessary part of moral thinking it is the application of these laws to specific cases that constitutes morality itself However people do not often try to make a list of these general laws or a priori principles that are the foundation of morality nor do they attempt to reduce these to a single first principle Rather they either assume that commonly accepted moral rules should be seen
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