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Why Does Mills Think That Utilitarianism Provides the Foundation for Justice and Why Does Rawls Reject It?

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Why does Mills think that Utilitarianism provides the foundation for Justice and why does Rawls reject it?
The concept of utilitarianism is one that has engulfed the philosophical arena with an obscene number of arguments that support and/or criticize it. Generally, utilitarianism is a theory in normative ethics that defines an action as one that ensures maximum utility. Other schools of thought would like to put it as the concept of “maximizing happiness while reducing suffering” (Mills 3).In as much as utilitarianism has continued to receive applause from people and the political scene, other divergent scholars has come up with other theories that seek to compromise the philosophies under which the concept of utilitarianism operates. As a result, utilitarianism has become subject to contradictions from other theories in the field of ethics. The thinking class in other fields of utilitarianism characterizes in as a quantitative yet reductionist approach to ethics (Mills 3). Over time, the concept of utilitarianism has received ideological threats from; deontological ethics which does not assign moral worth to an action based on its consequences, virtue ethics that solely deals with action and habits that results to happiness, pragmatic ethics and other forms of ethics that backs the idea of consequentialism. In a nut shell, the concept of utilitarianism as defined by political philosophers and in relation to justice is becoming a “battlefield” where the philosophical bigwigs continue to come up with ideas and findings that seek to either develop or criticize the existing theories. The need to understand the theories surrounding utilitarianism has given birth to such respected and honorable philosophers like John Stuart Mills and John Rawls. The two philosophers have continued to differ in their presentation of the philosophies governing the concept of utilitarianism. This paper seeks to investigate utilitarianism as presented by the two philosophers and establish the ideological conflicts that exist between the two schools of thought.
The working Hypothesis Mill claims that utilitarianism provides the foundation for justice. He holds that what is just is that that is considered by the greatest number of people to be just. However, this claim has received a challenge from Rawls who proclaims that justice is a question of obeying the individual natural rights. This paper seeks to investigate the ideological differences in the two schools of thought while citing the main reasons why Rawls challenges Mill’s position on the concept of justice.
Justice, as the philosophy world would define it, qualifies as one of the most sensitive subjects in political philosophy. Many philosophers have theorized and invented various ways in which the laws governing justice can derive. These theories bases on two main topics; the natural rights theory and utilitarianism and have equivalently sparked a heated debate which has left a mark in the philosophical regime. This essay will seek to evaluate he two schools of thought in light of the two famous and historic philosophers: John Rawls; whose name reminds scholars of his mighty works of the natural rights theories coupled with his sole idea of “veil of ignorance” and John Mills; founder of the principles of utilitarianism and famously known for his idea of the “impartial spectator”. The two theories are subject to a critical and systematic analysis. The paper will start by analyzing Mills’ perspective of justice hen move to Rawls. After that, the paper will attempt to draw the ideological differences of Rawls’ and Mills’ in the light of justice. The paper will then offer a personal justification attesting to the reason why Mills and Rawls might be ideologically correct in their perspective of thinking, citing basic reasons why this could be so.
Mill’s Argument on Justice John Stuart Mill is a renowned philosopher who is popular for his mighty works of utilitarianism and his idea of the “impartial spectator”. Mill attributes the concepts of Justice to utilitarianism, claiming that any action should seek to attain utility as an end result and cause happiness to the greatest number of people. So, what does Mill mean by utility of action? According to Mill, the satisfaction in an action is measured by how happy the society perceives the action. Happiness, according to Mill, is an equal of attaining the intended pleasure or that of avoiding pain (Mill 137). In his argument, Mill also tries to define the concept of real pleasure. He expresses this kind of pleasure not only as the bodily pleasure that lies on instincts and appetite, but also that kind of pleasure that is unsatisfactory to humans who ranks higher than animals given their capacity to think better (Mill, p. 138). In the wake of Mill’s argument, mental pleasures are more superior to the bodily pleasures. In such, Mill expresses that being a fool who is satisfied with the foolishness is not as valuable as being a wise man who is not satisfied (Mill, p. 140). The concept of the importance of the quality of pleasure according to Mill does not go unrealized. Mill reiterates that an action is termed as “just” when it offers happiness to an individual or the smallest group of people. From a utilitarian dimension, actions should offer high amounts of pleasure for the greatest number of people or even the whole society. Therefore, Mill seems to prove that justice can only be achieved through an intellectual maturity of the people in the society by them realizing that they should act in a way that benefits the whole community or society and not in a manner that instigates self-profit. Mill refers to this intellectual maturity as one of the greatest virtues in the entire world. (Mill 147). However, Mill tosses another “side of the coin” to this argument, that the intellectual maturity is only considered good or virtuous if it produces societal happiness. Otherwise, it stands to serve no purpose. “A sacrifice which does not increase, or tend to increase, the sum total of happiness, it considers as wasted” (Mill 148). How does Mill propose to archive this ethical and intellectual maturity? This question now defines the genesis of Mill’s idea of “impartial spectators”. Mill affirms that the only way to attain intellectual maturity is by an existence of a people or citizens who act as the “impartial spectators”. Mill suggests that people should be cognizant of the fact that they, in a social life setting, can only achieve individual satisfaction when their actions aim at attaining public utility. This will encourage people to realize the extent of damage caused by egoism hence; people must attempt to act devotedly to their societies. Mill suggests in his argument that the law should be constructed in such a way that it harmonizes individual benefits with public utility (Mill, p. 148). Mill closes his argument by appreciating utilitarianism claiming that it will help people attain their personal gains in observation of their community members. Mill also suggests that the best way to implant the necessities of utilitarianism starts from the school curriculum, where utilitarianism will be manifested into the minds of people so that they become aware of the importance of acting in the best interest of the society.
Rawls’ Argument on Justice The name John Rawls is remembered by the thinking class and honored as one of the greatest contributors to the natural rights approach. Just like other renowned philosophers like Immanuel Kant, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau, the late Rawls also thought of a scenario when people lived without a central authority in command. Rawls has then constructed his theories of natural rights on a hypothetical existence of a stateless nation called the “original opposition”. Some of the historical philosophers presented their ideas in form of real experiences and not from an experimented situation. Other philosophers found it easier to call Rawls hypothetical period as the “state of nature”. Rawls seems to hold the perception that in the original position, people do not know the class they belong, what their abilities are, their status and even defining what is good (Rawls 12). Rawls defines this position as living in the “veil of ignorance”. Rawls insists that the situation where people are not aware of their profits or the conception of what is good, do not favor them and neither does it make them feel like single individuals (Rawls, p. 206). That people do not intend to lie or cheat on each other and make plans that are secretive because they do not know what their profit is and they are tempted to think that the original situation is advantageous and fair to them. According to Rawls, the fairness in justice emanates from the original position and equally exhibits the fairness of persons living in such positions. “This explains the propriety of the name justice as fairness: it conveys the idea that the principles of justice are agreed to in an initial situation that is fair” (Rawls 12). Following this precedent, Rawls then argues that burdens as well as benefits, in a society are distributed equally. That no one would compromise someone else’s rights in order to benefit him/her or the society at large. Therefore, Rawls holds that the individual rights are protected in the original position as a result of the disinterested nature of people and the “veil of ignorance”. In his arguments, Rawls shows a sense of individualism and insists that any person’s ideas and thoughts should be tolerated in as far as it does not cause havoc that negates social order; which he says is very crucial in maintaining the freedom both in the individual and social life (Rawls 213). Following this argument, we can then conclude that Rawls derives the bases of justice in the protection of the individual rights and the disinterested nature of citizens as long as their individual rights prevail in a tolerant scene or society. Rawls maintains that the state should construct laws based on the principles of justice and that is should only intervene when there are complications that seem to compromise the untouchableness of natural rights of individuals. Rawls holds that the existence of inviolable natural individual rights should enjoy more superiority than public interest or any other proposal relating to ethics. The base of Justice, according to Rawls is that “....each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override” (Rawls 3).
The Ideological Conflict The two theories as presented by Mill and Rawls have met at a point of conflict. The “two sides of the same coin” seek to address the concept of justice in divergent perspectives. Generally, a close look at Rawls argument reveals an individualistic type of thinking while Mill presents a collectivist thinking. One thing that makes this section of the essay challenging is that philosophy, as a subject, considers each and every explanation to be correct based on the circumstances under which it is explained. This means that both Mill and Rawls might be correct on the subject of justice and its applications to utilitarianism and natural rights approach respectively. This section of the paper is meant to prove the hypothesis by evaluating the ideological differences in the two theories, explaining: why Rawls rejects Mill’s argument that utilitarianism provides a ground for justice and; why both of them may be correct in their own contexts. In Rawls views, the two theories seem to have close ties. However, they differ in the conceptual make up of important fundamental differences. In this sense, we cannot claim that Rawls’ “veil of ignorance” works as effective as Mill’s idea of the “impartial spectator”. The two ideas are based on totally difference philosophies though they all seek to address justice in their own perspectives. Rawls’ idea of the “veil of justice” claims that both sides of the position mutually take a more “disinterested” perspective than a sympathetic one. Rawls attributes this to the veil of ignorance that serves as an obstacle for people to realize their profits and as a result, they find themselves behaving in a fair manner. “In the original position, by contrast, the parties are mutually disinterested rather than sympathetic; but lacking knowledge of their natural assets or social situation, they are forced to view their arrangements in a general way” (Rawls 187). This serves as one of the major reasons why Rawls seem to reject Mill’s argument. According to Mill’s idea of the “impartial spectator”, people are fully aware of their profits and status as well, but they make it an individual choice to act devotedly in the best interest of the society. Mill suggests that the idea of public utility supremacy over individuals should be inculcated through effective education systems. It is with this perception that Rawls considers Mill’s idea of the “impartial spectator” as sympathetic to people. Rawls argues that the concept of assigning superiority to the public utility and sympathizing with people will create a state of impersonality rather than the intended impartiality (Rawls 188). Rawls claims that the interpretation of Mill’s idea leads to two discoveries, the first one being that; the concept of impartiality can only be successful if individuals are complete altruists. This is explained by the very fact that the “impartial spectators” though fully aware of their profits and status, they still sympathetically choose to act in the interest of attaining public utility. Secondly, Mill’s idea suggests that people attain self profit from public utility. In a nut shell, Mill is selling the idea that people, being aware of their profits, can go ahead to search for their own individual benefits from public utility. Rawls terms this as being egoistic as opposed to impartial (Rawls 189). In the light of these facts, Rawls claims that the concept of utilitarianism if flowed with contractions as it, on one side, appreciates people for their impartiality and altruism yet on the other hand claim that there are benefits of acting in the interest of public utility. It is with this kind of contradiction that the application of the concept of utilitarianism in a society might prove to be hard. The interpretation assigned to Mill’s idea of impartial spectator is that people should act in the interest of public utility in order to egoistically gain individual benefits. This begs the question of what happens if the system does not satisfy their needs. Taking a scenario of a country conducting elections, how would Mill’s idea of impartial spectator work? Furthermore, whose interests does these decisions serves; the society of individuals? And finally, there cannot be a people who are complete altruists. In these texts, it is also evident that Rawls’ idea of natural rights assigns some importance to the human natural rights while Mill’s idea of impartial spectator supports societal benefits over individual natural rights. Rawls criticizes this thought by articulating that the concept of utilitarianism measures people’s values as a function of their thoughts and actions without necessarily appreciating the preciousness of human life. So in order to satisfy many people in a country, one may have to kill the minority living in the same country. This does not in any manner conform to the rules of justice. However, Mill’s can also seek to defend this analogy by arguing that it is humane and reasonable to sacrifice the minority for the survival of the majority. Taking a hypothetical situation that people are in a ship sailing and they identify a potential rapist amongst them. Mill’s idea of impartial spectator would consider this person as a threat to public interest in a bid to save the many young female children and women in the ship. An impartial agent will see this person drown in water defending the ideology that he is working for the public interest. However, free and rational agents would try to put themselves in the shoes of this man. No matter the kinds of crime the man has committed before or intends to commit in the future, Rawls “veil of ignorance” would still assign value to the life of this man. This draws a clear difference between the natural rights and the concept of utilitarianism. Mill’s utilitarianism measures values in accordance with thought while Rawls’ veil of ignorance theory is concerned with the preciousness of the human life. These form the basic foundational difference between utilitarianism and theory of natural rights.
Individual Argument Having analyzed the situation, I have realized that both Mill’s and Rawls’ ideologies also have some contradictions that are worth raising. Rawls might be right to say that the utilitarian view is contradictive in the making. The principle of utilitarianism contains the concept of sympathy and impartiality coupled with self benefit in public utility. Indeed, when the theories merge together as a whole, they create a conspicuous confusion since a person cannot claim to be an altruist if he/she embraces the utilitarian principle with a goal to maximize his/her profits. Alternatively, a person cannot accept to embrace utilitarianism in order to maximize his/her own benefits if indeed he/she is an altruist. However, from a personal dimension, the concept of impersonality does not only apply to Mill’s ideology but also to Rawls’. Do we get to define people living in the veil of ignorance and not aware of their profits as impersonal. Then I think that Mill, with his call for importance of wisdom, have an answer to this. Personally, I would prefer to be an egoist who is very much aware of the underlying realities and the benefits that accrues to me than be a disinterested citizen living in the veil of ignorance and is typically not aware of what accrues of my benefits. It is my opinion that Rawls concept of “veil of ignorance” is not practical in the contemporary world. This is because the 21st century has seen people raised in an informed societal setting whereby people are fully informed of their identities and profits that accrue to them. In the today’s world, it is hard to find people putting themselves in others’ shoes and if the so exist such people they are very few. This, due to the competitive nature of the contemporary world, put Rawls theory in play and as a result I suggest that people be taught to focus on their own profits instead of others’. It is also my opinion that Mill’s idea of utilitarianism can be solid if it is amended to remove the elements of contradiction and prevent if from violation the individual rights of natural justice in the quest of obtaining public utility. Existing literature as well as observational experiments has proved that human beings cannot be complete altruists and even if they find a way to act like one, it would be hard to tell whether it is genuine or egoistical. In the contemporary world, people should contribute to the general happiness of the state. However, this also requires the state to create a peaceful and enhancing environment where people are allowed to choose their lifestyles. This mechanism should be constructed to endorse punishment to persons who seek to interfere with the individual rights. The real situation in the ground cannot work with either of the theories as presented by Mill and Rawls. It would require a combination of both theories with the exemptions of the outliers.
As reiterated before, in the world of philosophy, it is difficult to be right just as much as it is to be wrong. This paper has assessed the full extent of the hypothesis and holds a number of findings. Firstly, due to the contradictive nature of the principles of utilitarianism, Rawls is justified to reject Mill’s position on justice. This is attributed to the fact that there cannot be altruists who embrace utilitarianism for individual benefit let alone the fact that altruism is not achievable in any society. The other reason why Mill stands corrected is that the philosophies that govern utilitarianism do not necessarily reflect on the principles of justice. This is explained by the case example of a rapist in a ship and how the two theories could have handled the situation. Moreover, it is important to note that the paper only agrees to Rawls’ criticism of Mill’s ideas of utilitarianism but does not entirely agree with Rawls’ idea of the “veil of ignorance”. By definition of the natural rights as presented in the paper, Rawls constructed the theory based on a hypothetical existence of a stateless nation. This mean the natural rights theory remains to be imaginary as opposed to the underlying subject of justice that is real. A critical analysis of the “real situation in the ground” has confirmed that both theories cannot survive on their own but rather conjointly, with the exemption of outliers. Therefore, the paper concludes that further research and reconstruction of the theories needs to take effect as the analysis has only proved the partial correctness of the hypothesis.

Work Cited
Mill, John S. Utilitarism =: Der Utilitarismus. London [u.a.: Dent, 1910. Print.
Rawls, John. A Theory of Justice. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press of Harvard Univ. Press, 1999. Print.

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...Forthcoming: 72 Fordham L. Rev. 1857 (2004) RAWLSIAN FAIRNESS AND REGIME CHOICE IN THE LAW OF ACCIDENTS Gregory C. Keating* The political philosophy of John Rawls is pregnant with implications for the tort theory. Our law of intentional and accidental physical injury is rich with the rhetoric of reasonableness and fairness, and these ideals lie at the heart of Rawls’s political philosophy. The figure of the reasonable person is central both to the law of negligence—where it serves as the master criterion of justified risk imposition—and to the law of intentional torts—where it helps to define the contours of permissible self-defense, the sensibility by which the offensiveness of contact in battery is measured, and the content of the consent given in connection with matters as diverse as The concept of contact sports and medical operations.1 reasonableness figures prominently in strict liability as well. The intentional infliction of unreasonable harm triggers liability for damages in the law of nuisance, and strict liability in general can be fruitfully understood as a form of liability applicable when the conduct which leads to accidental injury is reasonable, but the failure to make reparation for the harm done is unreasonable.2 Principles of fairness figure more prominently in the judicial rhetoric of strict products liability than economic ideas of efficient precaution and efficient insurance do.3 * William T. Dalessi Professor of Law, USC Law School. For instruction...

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