Compare and Contrast Essay Example: Utilitarianism

Compare and contrast is a very efficient type of essay, it can be used in several fields of study. If you were to discuss and make a distinction between two very similar ideas, a compare and contrast essay can help you prove your point clearly. The downside of writing a compare and contrast essay is that it is too sensitive to write. It is not as simple as comparing the two subjects you’ve chosen. You have to identify their similarities and differences and build a bridge between those findings in order to come up with a conclusion that will support the aim of your essay. If you are confused as to how a compare and contrast essay should be properly written, here is a compare and contrast essay example.

John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism and Jeremy Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation

A Comparative Paper

      Though Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832) was generally credited to create the first systematic account of utilitarianism, ideas motivating the theory had already occurred much earlier. Bentham’s moral and political philosophies are mainly evident in his book An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation wherein the first chapter immediately discusses the Bentham’s Principle of Utility. Bentham’s utility refers not only to the usefulness of things or actions, but to the degree in which these things or actions promote the goodness and happiness to the general populace. Therefore, things or actions that produce the greatest happiness for the most number of people is considered morally right and conversely, things or actions that fail to produce or maximize the greatest happiness for the most number of people are considered morally wrong. In promoting the interest of a populace or a community, one must first understand its components–the interests of an individual. The interests of the community are then made up of the overall interests of a great number of individuals. An important note to the principle of utility is the role of pleasure and pain, which Bentham declares as the “two sovereign masters” or the primary motivators of humankind. Pleasure and pain is equated to good and evil. Thus, the measure of good or happiness is dictated upon by the amount of pleasure or pain brought upon the greatest number of people. 

      Bentham suggests that a formal calculation is not necessary and not applicable to all moral judgment. He adds that the utility of an object can be measured if it aims for the common good of the people. Bentham argues that the value of the property relies on the degree of the pleasure or pain it gives to the owner. If the legislation’s pleasure is pure, then it is likely to have a good effect to the people and promotes common good. But if it the pleasure is not pure, then it is most likely to have a negative effect on the people in the long run.

         Another proponent of utilitarianism is John Stuart Mill. John Stuart Mill’s book Utilitarianism is a classical exposition in support of the said ethical theory. The essay was first published in Fraser’s Magazine in 1861 as a series of three articles. The articles were compiled and reprinted as a single book in 1863. Mill explains that utilitarianism suggests that actions that promote happiness are considered right, and actions that promote the opposite is considered wrong.      

      Mill elaborated the creed of Utility or the Greatest Happiness Principle, accepted as the foundation of morals and is the best theory of ethics. He described happiness as pleasure and the absence of pain. As for pain, he described it as the "privation of pain." By this, Mill stresses that "pleasure and the freedom from pain" are the only desirable ends. Mill defends utilitarianism from the criticisms it had received. For example, Mill disagreed that the principle of utility is only for swine since they are the only ones whose mission is pleasure. Mill also argued that utility is in fact obtainable. He also explains the intellectual pleasure is much higher than any other kind of pleasure like bodily pleasures. This can be gained through the cultivation of one's critical and intellectual faculties. Mill's principle of utility was greatly influenced by Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism. 

        According to Mill, utilitarianism can apply the sanctions that are also applied by any other kind of moral philosophy. He explains that there are two kinds: external and internal. External sanctions pertain to both the approval and disapproval of the people around us, such as family and friends. This can also refer to the acceptance or wrath of a higher deity. On the other hand, internal sanctions are our inner thoughts on morality, the nuances of which are represented by our conscience.

         His perspective is quite faulty for it is fully dependent on the idea that all of humanity deeply wishes for the happiness of one another, thereby negating the possibility humans make decisions purely based on selfish goals. Based from the events, one can deduce that man’s true nature isn’t that of pure goodness. Humans are neither inherently inclined to help each other. Government, religion, and other institutions that aim to discipline man were erected in recognition of man's chaotic will. The theory of evolution is built upon one law—survival of the fittest. Every individual’s main goal is to survive and that idea in itself is already selfish in tone. 

          Bentham and Mill are classical utilitarians who tried to use utilitarianism to inform law and social policy. However, their take on utilitarianism is same and different in a way or two. Bentham’s utilitarianism focuses on the belief that pain and pleasure directs our actions. His view on utilitarianism focuses on quantity of pleasure and pain. He formulated the felicific calculus by which pleasure can be measured. This quantitative principle is divided into seven aspects: duration, intensity, remoteness, certainty, purity, richness and extent.

         The usefulness of things or actions must see the extent to which these things or actions promote happiness. Such usefulness is called the principle of utility. For Bentham, what is morally right is to promote the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people. 

         Anything that is consistent with happiness is either good, should be done or right. Happiness, in Bentham’s definition, is the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. Actions are also evaluated based on their consequences. This utilitarianism is seen as hedonistic.

        Mill’s utilitarianism, on the other hand, focuses on the quality of pleasure. He is convinced that there is pleasure that is more valuable than others and that is pleasure that employs the higher faculties of a human (i.e. judgment, imagination, moral sentiments, empathy, etc.). Such pleasure is happiness which is the utilitarian end for Mill. He wanted to redevelop the notion that pleasures are not all of equal value, in contrast of Bentham’s claim that “everybody is to count for one, and nobody for more than one.” Mill also wanted to take human nature into account, for example, by placing weight on the effectivity of internal sanctions that regulate a person’s own actions such as guilt and remorse. 

       Bentham and Mill provided in-depth insight not only in the ways that legislation ought to be founded, but on how to regulate it from the perspective of an individual towards promoting common good. Suffice it to say that Bentham set the framework, and Mill supplied the nuances with which it must be put in practice; Bentham laid the tenets, and Mill provided the delineation. Mill's interpretation of utilitarianism, therefore is a more sophisticated and enlightened version of Bentham's laid principles. The two versions, however, are not mutually exclusive. An amalgamation of both should provide a clear blueprint for any government aspiring to enact moral, conscientious legislation.


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