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John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). An Introduction to Mill’s form of Utilitarianism in comparison to Bentham’s. First a re-cap of Bentham…. Bentham’s theory can be divided into three parts: Hedonistic Utilitarianism The Principle of Utility The Utility or Hedonic Calculus. PLEASURE.

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john stuart mill 1806 1873

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

An Introduction to Mill’s form of Utilitarianism in comparison to Bentham’s

first a re cap of bentham
First a re-cap of Bentham…

Bentham’s theory can be divided into three parts:

  • Hedonistic Utilitarianism
  • The Principle of Utility
  • The Utility or Hedonic



All types of pleasure and pain can be measured on the same scale

Pleasures can be compared quantitatively because there is no difference between them

Bentham once said that “quantity of pleasure being equal, push-pin (a simple child’s game) is as good as poetry.”

What is good and bad for each person is a matter for each person to decide by following the hedonic (felicific) calculus

the hedonic calculus
The Hedonic Calculus

The Hedonic Calculus is:

Democratic Egalitarian


“Everybody is to count for one, and nobody for more than one.”

“No one person’s pleasure is greater than another’s”

In keeping with the enlightenment thinking the Hedonic Calculus was a rational and scientific way to measure pleasure. Bentham claimed that goodness could be empirically (through experience) proven.

john stuart mill 1806 18731
John Stuart Mill1806-1873
  • Bentham’s godson
  • Believed that happiness, not pleasure, should be the standard of utility.

J. S. Mill

  • Mill agreed with Bentham in emphasising that a persons’ well being is of the utmost importance.
  • Mill agreed with the utility principle but had an issue with the quantitative element.
  • Mill developed a system of higher and lower pleasures.
  • To pursue pleasures of the intellect were ‘higher’ than, say, the pursuits if pleasures of the body.
Mill wanted to reformulate the utilitarian theory to reflect the fact that pleasures are not all of equal value.
  • He also wanted to take human nature into account.
pleasure is not the same as happiness
Pleasure is not the same as happiness!

There are two main differences between pleasure and happiness






Pursued as an end in its own right


An indirect by-product of another activity

for example
For example…
  • A divorced, wealthy, young man may seek pleasure from drugs, alcohol and an active sex life with many partners, but lack the happiness of true friendship and the love of his family
Mill’s utilitarianism has been referred to as being eudaimonistic (human well being) utilitarianism, as opposed to Bentham’s hedonistic (pleasure) utilitarianism.
  • Eudaimonia is found in

the writings of Aristotle

Aristotle distinguished between pleasure and happiness

For Mill the difference in happiness over pleasure is significant; happiness having a higher qualitative edge over the quantity of lower bestial (base) pleasures

mill defines utilitarianism as
Mill defines utilitarianism as…
  • “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utilitarianism, or the greatest happiness principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and absence of pain: by unhappiness pain and privation of pleasure.”

Utilitarianism Chapter 2

higher and lower pleasures
Higher and Lower pleasures

“It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”

Mill, 1863, Chapter 2

Mill maintained that pleasures of the mind were higher than those of the body.
  • To pursue bodily pleasures – food, drink, drugs and sex – was not as high an objective as those that are intellectually demanding.
  • Are bodily pleasures lower than intellectual pleasures?
  • On your own, arrange the following from higher to lower quality: eating, listening to music, making music, drinking alcohol, watching a good movie, viewing beautiful artwork, spending time with your partner, spending time with your friends, attending family gatherings, eating chocolate, reading or hearing poetry, playing sport, achieving fame.
How do we distinguish between two higher pleasures? How could the pleasures to be gained from playing Bach be measured against the pleasures to be gained from seeing a Shakespearian play? Give examples if you can.
  • Is it better to be intellectually aware of the world’s imperfections and the sufferings of people and, hence, be unhappy or dissatisfied, or is it better to be blissfully ignorant of the world’s troubles and, hence, be happy and content with ;life?
  • In the same way you did for Bentham, create a biography of Mill’s life.