Essay on the Criticism of Qualitative Altruistic Hedonism Theory of J.S. Mill

J.S. Mill’s Qualitative Altruistic Hedonism or Refined Utilitarianism is open to the following objection:

1. J.S. Mill’s doctrine is Hedonistic. So it is open to all the objections against Hedonism. Hedonism is based upon a one sided view of human nature. It considered man as essentially a sentient being. Therefore, it conceives the end of his life as sentient satisfaction or pleasure. But the true end of life must be the satisfaction of the complete total self, rational as well as sentient. Moreover, happiness is not the same thing as pleasures. Dewey rightly remarks that happiness is a feeling of the whole self, as opposed to pleasure a feeling of someone aspect of self; that happiness is permanent, as opposed to pleasure which is temporary and related to a particular activity. Happiness lies in the harmony of pleasures while pleasure arises from the gratification of a single isolated desire. Happiness is the feeling that accompanines the systematization of desires. Pleasure is the feeling that arises from the fulfilment of a single desire. Bentham and J.S. Mill fail to recognize this obvious distinction between pleasure and happiness.

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2. J.S. Mill bases his Utilitarianism on Psychological Hedonism. So his doctrine suffers from all the defects of psychological Hedonism. Pleasure is not the direct object of desire, but the consequences of the fulfilment of desire. The more we seek pleasure, the less we get it. This is the paradox of hedonism. J.S. Mill’s admission, that virtue wealth and the like are desired as means to pleasure, in the beginning and then in the long run are desired in themselves owing to the transference of interest from the end to the means, is fatal to psychological hedonism. J.S. Mill, then admits that desire is directed to objects other than pleasure. But psychological hedonism insists that desire is always directed towards pleasure. Moreover, even if we do desire pleasure, it does not necessarily leads to Ethical Hedonism.


3. What is the test of quality? When J.S. Mill appeals to the verdict of competent judges to explain the test of quality, he makes it an arbitrary affair. If the verdict be not arbitary, it must command itself to reason. Thus the outer verdict of competent judges is but an echo of the inner voice of con science. Moral reason determines the moral quality of pleasures.

When pressed hard to give a real test of quality, J.S. Mill refers us to the sense of dignity. If the dignity of sense or the dignity of reason? It cannot be resolved into desire for pleasure. The sense of dignity natural to man is the dignity or reason. It is not the dignity of sensibility. The sense of dignity is not, as T.H. Green rightly remarks, a desire for pleasure. The sense of dignity natural to man is the dignity of reason, not of sensibility. Here again, J.S. Mill introduces an element or rationalism into his doctrine. .

4. J.S. Mill makes the hedonistic calculus extremely impracticable. Subjective pleasures and pains which are highly variable and capricious cannot be exactly estimated. It is all the more difficult to apply the hedonistic calculus to the greatest happiness of the greatest number’. Bentham admits that every man is nearer to himself than he can be to any other man, and that no other man can weigh for him his pleasures and pains. If so, we cannot calculate the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Then again, what is pleasant to me may be painful to another and what makes us happy at one time makes us unhappy at another time.

Hence hedonistic calculus is impracticable. And the difficulty of hedonistic calculation is all the more in creased by J.S. Mill’s introduction of the differences of quality among pleasures. We cannot set a plus of quality or quantity against minas of quality or quantity. Qualities cannot be measure against quantities, unless they are some how reducible to quantities. But J.S. Mill does not admit that qualities can be reduced to quantities. They are entirely different from each other and cannot be reduced to the same units. Thus J.S. Mill’s recognition of qualities of pleasure makes hedonistic calculus extremely impracticable. Pleasures and pains are viewed by J.S. Mill as a kind of emotional currency, which can be added, substracted and multiplied. But this is wrong.

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