What is the foundation upon which moral judgements are made? Why and how do we conclude that an action, performed or contemplated, is right or wrong, good or bad? In the eighteenth century, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham developed the now famous moral theory known as utilitarianism, which is based upon the pleasure principle - a concept whose history can be traced back to the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus and to Hedonism.In his acclaimed essay "Utilitarianism" (1863), John Stuart Mill, the intellectual creation of his father (James Mill) and Jeremy Bentham, discusses in considerable detail this powerful and influential principle that grounds the judgement of human action on the extent to which it would result in pleasure or happiness for the greatest number of people. In doing so, Mill not only analysis objections to the principle of utility, but also distinguishes his own unique interpretation of the principle, thus beginning a self-critical approach to the development and refinement of utilitarian moral theory that remains vigorous to this day.
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Author Biography - John Stuart Mill
JOHN STUART MILL was born in London on May 20, 1806, the son of noted Scottish economist and philosopher James Mill, who held an influential post in the powerful East India Company. Mill's natural talent and physical stamina were put to the test at a very young age when he undertook a highly structured and individual-ized upbringing orchestrated by his father, who believed that the mind was a passive receptacle for human experience. His educa-tion and training were so intense that he was reading Greek at the age of three and doing independent writing at six. Mill's education broadened considerably after 1823 when he entered the East India Company to commence his life's career as his father had done before him. He traveled, became politically involved, and in so doing moved away from the narrower sectar-ian attitudes in which he had been raised. His ideas and imagina-tion were ignited by the views of such diverse personalities as Wordsworth, Saint-Simon, Coleridge, Comte, and de Tocqueville. During his life, Mill wrote many influential works: System of Logic (1843); Principles of Political Economy (1848); On Liberty (1859); The Subjection of Women (1861); Utilitarianism (1863); Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1865); and Autobiography (1873). As a defender of individual freedom and human rights, John Stuart Mill lives on as a nineteenth-century champion of social reform. He died on May 7, 1873.