Utilitarianism on liberty and other essays ..

Gay's influence on later writers, such as Hume, deservesnote. It is in Gay's essay that some of thequestions that concerned Hume on the nature of virtue areaddressed. For example, Gay was curious about how to explain ourpractice of approbation and disapprobation of action andcharacter. When we see an act that is vicious we disapprove ofit. Further, we associate certain things with their effects, sothat we form positive associations and negative associations that alsounderwrite our moral judgments. Of course, that we view happiness,including the happiness of others as a good, is due to God'sdesign. This is a feature crucial to the theological approach,which would clearly be rejected by Hume in favor of a naturalistic viewof human nature and a reliance on our sympathetic engagement withothers, an approach anticipated by Shaftesbury (below). Thetheological approach to utilitarianism would be developed later byWilliam Paley, for example, but the lack of any theoretical necessityin appealing to God would result in its diminishing appeal.

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Utilitarianism and Other Essays by John Stuart Mill

Bentham is not unaware of this tension. He addresses part of theproblem in the political context in other writings, notably hisPlan for Parliamentary Reform (1817). In the politicalcontext, the problem is how we can get self-interested rulers to rulein the interest of the governed, as utilitarianism implies that theyshould. Bentham's answer invokes his commitment to representativedemocracy. We can reconcile self-interested motivation and promotion ofthe common good if we make rulers democratically accountable to (all)those whom they govern, for this tends to make the interest of thegoverned and the interest of the governors coincide. Bentham'sargument, elaborated by James Mill in his Essay on Government,is something like this.

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Mill's utilitarian justification of secondary principles is intendedas a contrast with the intuitionism of William Whewell and others. Ashe makes clear in his essay “Whewell on MoralPhilosophy”(CW X), Mill thinks that the intuitionistwrongly treats familiar moral precepts as ultimate moral factors whosejustification is supposed to be self-evident. By contrast, Mill'saccount of secondary principles recognizes their importance in moralreasoning but insists that they are neither innate nor infallible; theyare precepts that have been adopted and internalized because of theiracceptance value, and their continued use should be suitably regulatedby their ongoing comparative acceptance value. Far from underminingutilitarian first principles, Mill thinks, appeal to the importance ofsuch moral principles actually provides support for utilitarianism.

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Utilitarianism and other essays

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