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Quoting

Integrated quotes to support an argument—excerpt 2

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Task: Critically comment on the following objection to Mill's utilitarianism: "The demands of the principle of utility sometimes conflict with the demands of justice. In those cases utilitarianism judges an unjust act to be right. This provides us with a good reason to reject utilitarianism".
(From a 200 level philosophy paper, 2000 words)

Background: In this excerpt the student is defining her terms and clarifying her terms of reference.

It is appropriate to identify what is meant by the idea of utility. Mill (1910) explains:

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, 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 the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure. (p. 6)

Rawls (1999) clarifies this idea by explaining how "society is rightly ordered, and therefore just, when its major institutions are arranged so as to achieve the greatest net balance of satisfaction summed over all the individuals belonging to it" (p. 20). An interesting feature of such an approach is that personal motivation for an action or behaviour has no bearing on the morality of the action which it is judged solely on the degree of happiness created as a result. Therefore, actions may be judged as moral or immoral according to the consequences of those actions. In principle then, a malevolent and selfish misanthropist might, by running over a cruel and vicious social predator, achieve a morally laudable outcome. Of course, this is an extreme and unsympathetic extrapolation which perhaps should be moderated by observing that such "[t]elelogical theories have a deep intuitive appeal since they seem to embody the idea of rationality" (Rawls, 1999, p. 23).

Mill, J. S. (1910). Utilitarianism, liberty, and representative government. London, England: J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Rawls, J. (1999). A theory of justice (revised edition). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.