Mill’s utilitarianism

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Considering Mill’s utilitarianism, is what I want what others want? That is, should my personal view be the law for others? If not, how would a utilitarian handle this issue?

In addressing the above question, understanding the meaning of the term utilitarianism is important. It is a philosophical theory on how people should evaluate a broader dimension of things that require people to make choices. Utilitarianism is consequential in nature because it rests on the idea that it is the consequences that determine whether they are right or wrong (Mill, J1990). Hence, whatever under evaluation, people ought to pick that which produces the best general results. Choosing items with maximum utility prevails. Therefore, the personal view cannot be the law for other people. Utilitarian theory handles such situation in what is called ethical theory.

Despite the fact that Mill’s utilitarianism nearly goes with this assertion, it does not mean that what I want is what others want or my personal view to be a law on others.  There are two perspectives through which utilitarianism can be viewed.  One is from choice, and the other is the common good. A person can choose something that is good to him but lacks common good.  Therefore what one wants does not translate top what others want.  The same case applies to views and perception. Since people are different, they do differ in views. Therefore, one cannot impose his views on other as if they are laws.

The personal view can only be a law to other when justified by the utilitarian principle as moral foundations. The principle asserts that actions are moral and right in proportion as they tend to enhance the overall happiness. Therefore, Mill offers a solution by focusing on action consequences rather than on neither rights nor ethical sentiments. When focusing back on the question, the personal view cannot become bound to other people around. But, it can only apply if it contributes to the general good of those people. The reason as to why personal view cannot be applied to others is that some of the views might be bad in the eyes of others. As a result, all people will not be attracted to personal view because of perceived consequences.  On the contrary, if personal view proves to promote the general wellness of other people, then it can easily bind them.

Therefore, while utilitarianism provides for people to take choices, they individual choices can be personal and cannot be affected in others particularly if they do not contribute to the wellbeing of others. Hence, what I want is not what others want; neither do my views translate to others laws.


Mill, J. S. (1990): Utilitarianism. Raleigh, N.C: Alex Catalogue.

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