HappinessHappiness: In one word, this concept exemplifies the American dream.People go to any means by which to obtain the many varied materials and issuesthat induce pleasures in each individual, and intrinsically, this emotionremains the ultimate goal, John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth century philosopher,correctly advocated the pursuit of happiness, and maintained the concept thatabove all other values, pleasure existed as the final destination, Mill’shedonistic views correctly and rationally identified a natural human tendency,and his Utilitarian arguments strongly support the theory that above all else,happiness is the most important dream to be fulfilled. Upon researching forthis paper, I came across a counter argument, which was based on metaphysics.
Immanuel Kant, in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, defends his strongbeliefs in the issue of a good will, and surfaces as MM’s chief opponent on thetopic of metaphysics, The issue diminishes to a clash between emotions andpleasures ve rses rationality and logic. Yet, what use is logic when the goodagent is miserable? Mill’s stance within Utilitarianism exists as the morefavorable of the two beliefs, for happiness exist as the one intrinsicallyfavorable element, not an emotionless mind.The main defender of the Utilitarian system exists within the Greatesthappiness Principle. Mill lived as a chief advocate of this concept, whichsupports the idea that a decision is morally correct as long as it increases andencourages pleasures and happiness. Kant, however, in his endless quest toremain separate from emotions and thrive only on logic, would argue thatautonomy should be placed above happiness in a list of intrinsic values. A goodwill, however, does not comfort an individual in any way if happiness does notaccompany this asset, Consider this example of a seemingly happily marriedcouple. The wife in this duo is madly in love with her husband fiercely loyal,and completely happy with her marriage and children.
The husband, however, aswrongfully strayed, and had a brief, but damaging affair behind his wife’s back.Kant would argue that autonomy reigns over pleasure, and the woman shouldtherefore want to be informed of her husband’s adultery, Mill would greatlydisagree. By revealing the secret of the past affair, the woman’s happy worldwould be instantly shattered. Her pride would diminish, her stability wouldfall apart, and the children especially would be forced to view a nasty side oftheir beloved father. In this case, individual control is greatly overshadowedby the need for happiness. The husband is no longer acting unfaithful and thefamily can easily continue to live in a happy realm, If the secret were tobecome uncovered, all members of this circumstance unavoidably would becometerribly disappointed, Under the Greatest Happiness Principle, the wife shouldnot be informed. Since happiness truly lives as the ultimate in human desires,sparing such immense amounts of pain truly is the logical choice, Mill’sargument prevails, and all those involved remain happy. Through this example,one can easily see that although autonomy is often a favorable feature, it doesnot overshadow the importance of happiness.
One of the main arguments against Utilitarianism exist in the lack ofapparent fairness. An advocate of the Kantian logic principle would argue thatMill’s belief system does not allow for equal treatment, When considering whatis best for an entire society, however, it is necessary for certain individualsto endure suffering. The good of society remains the ultimate goal, andunfortunate pain is therefore inevitable, If young children are being killed ina certain community, the obvious good for this society is discovering andpunishing the murderer. Especially when children are involved, peopleautomatically demand prompt justice.
The officials of this area have searchedimmensely for the accused, yet no leads have surfaced, and the communitysuddenly erupts with anger, they demand that someone be punished, As aUtilitarian, the police chief sees a window of opportunity. A drug dealer hasrecently been brought in on yet another drug selling offense, and the chiefdecides to coerce the invalu able member of society into confessing the crime athand, By doing so, the community instantly reunites in support and a dangerousand deadly revolt is avoided, and a menace to society is right back where hewould have been regardless of his confession: behind bars, Kant, however, wouldargue that logically, the chase for the true offender should continue. He wouldshun the emotional decision to make the whole society happy by ignoring therational decisions. But since the community obviously chooses happiness overlogic, Kant’s arguments are irrelevant.
In addition, Kant believes in adecision making process completely separate from the natural human emotions,Such a demand is possible only for a character such as Star Trek’s Dr. Spock,for human emotions are as much a part of every day life as the decision makingprocess itself. Logically speaking, therefore, Mill’s Utilitarianism argumentsmaintain the largest dose of validity.Other opponents to the philosophical viewpoint of Utilitarianism statethat followers of this belief system often promote an ignorant lifestyle, Theymaintain that advocates of the Greatest Happiness Principle believe in thetheory that “ignorance is bliss,” Again, such reasoning is quite faulty.Displaying the erroneousness of this statement can be done by examining theissue of AIDS, An opponent of Utilitarianism would say an Infected HIV victimwould not want to be aware of his disorder, Such a belief is extremely incorrect.Mill and other Utilitarian are strong advocates of education, for withintelligence, greater levels of achievement and happiness can be obtained. Amember of this belief system would rightly argue that being aware of thedisorder could increase long-term happiness, for treatments and support fromfriends and family could greatly aid the victim’s fight against his or heralhnents, Mills therefore strongly support education systems and believe inmaking society as a whole as happy as possible. In the case of the AIDS victim,a Utilitarian would also support the notification of the disorder to the victimin order to spare others of contracting the virus, The happiness of the majoritywould not be increased by an unknowing HIV carrier spreading the disease toother defenseless individuals, Utilitarianism clearly is not a ignorant way tolive, and the Kantian philosophy of ignoring the irrational system of emotionscannot refute this standard.
Without happiness, the other opportunities and necessities lose nearlyall levels of importance. A true Utilitarian supports only those concepts thatpromote the highest levels of pleasures, and as Mill states, encourages onlythose actions that promote real happiness, From a Kantian viewpoint, rationalityand the possession of a good will remains the most important element, but evensomeone with the truest and most logical of intentions can easily exist in arealm of pure depression. The one link that exists between these oppositebelief systems is the concept that, all decisions should be made outside ofone’s personality. The key is that Kant said this decisions should be madewithout any regard for human emotions, A request of this magnitude is a part ofa utopian society only, for ignoring one’s emotions is an illogical assumptionin itself, If your child and wife are both dying, deciding which one to savecannot be made without some emotional influence, Utilitarianism allows for theemotional side of life but requests only that the Greatest Happiness Principlebe strictly followed. Any truly decent human being naturally follows such arequest every day, Decisions are made based on the greatest level of happiness,That way, the largest majority of people benefit, and the greatest amount ofhappiness is achieved.
Yet as Kant believed, a more morally correct decisionlies at the heart of every dilemma.How does one decide who is morally more correct to save in an instancewhere two cherished loved ones are passing away, and only one individual may besaved? And even more importantly, how does one do so without regard emotions?I personally feel that living strictly by the doctrine of Kantian philosophy iscompletely impossible. Being a Utilitarian and hedonist, such as Mill, makesmore sense to me.