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Is the ‘Philosophy of Swine’ Objection a Telling Criticism of Utilitarian Theory?

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“Is the ‘philosophy of swine’ objection a telling criticism of Utilitarian theory? Why or why not? ” Philosophy of swine. This was mentioned by Mill criticizing Bentham’s utilitarianism. Before looking at Mill’s criticism, historical background of the birth of utilitarianism should be discussed ahead. Utilitarianism arose in the Industrial Revolution period. As nations became industrialized in the eighteenth century, bourgeois: an industrial middle class, appeared demanding new political and economic theory which would support their own interests.

In the economic sphere, Adam Smith introduced laissez-faire theory following new era’s request. However, political theory was still remaining at social contract theory of the seventeenth century. Especially, as Britain was enjoying its period of political and constitutional stability after the Glorious Revolution, social contract theory which explains legitimacy of a government didn’t attract people’s attention any more. Going through the social fluctuations, Bentham came up with an idea called ‘utilitarianism’. Bentham’s theory was remarkably progressive that he was considered as philosophical radicals.

In accordance with the bourgeois’ demand for theory appropriate to those days, Bentham’s utilitarianism was based on a very simple premise; every man pursues happiness. A single behavior is determined to be moral or not by whether it creates happiness. This makes utilitarianism solely focus on the consequence of the act. Bentham also insists that every choice should be made toward the maximization of utility. Regarding making political decisions, we should follow the policy that yields ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number’.

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However, Bentham’s theory is denounced by Mill, because it doesn’t acknowledge the objective standard of values. When Bentham deals with the happiness, that only count is the total aggregation of the amount of happiness. The standard and quality of the pleasure is totally disregarded. For example, there is no difference in quality between satisfied satiety after eating delicious food and the feeling of academic accomplishment. However, Mill completes Utilitarianism criticizing and supplementing this quantitative utilitarianism. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. ” This famous phrase denotes that human happiness is inseparable from the question of quality, and there exists much higher level of pleasure. It is reasonable for Mill to criticize Bentham’s utilitarianism as the philosophy of swine. However, not all utilitarian theories should be regarded as the swine philosophy. Mill developed qualitative utilitarianism with this criticism and also established liberalism thoughts on this ground, which still has a significant impact on today’s political theory.

Thus, the answer to the given question is partly yes and partly no. This essay will endeavor to explain that utilitarianism is more than just hedonism; utilitarianism completed by Mill, liberal thoughts suggested in On Liberty, and its impact on present society will be discussed further. First of all, Mill introduced the concept of quality to existing utilitarianism. He suggested that “some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. ” Mental pleasure is much superior to physical and instinctive pleasure, because only human beings can experience the former.

For this reason, Mill’s utilitarianism is often called humanized utilitarianism. Another factor that distinguishes Mill from Bentham is that his idea of compatibility between individual utility and social utility. This argument is also used when criticizing Bentham who saw human beings as selfish entities. Contrarily, Mill concluded that men do not always pursue an immediate profit. Of course, human beings are fundamentally self-centered, but they can give up present interests since they can see the future through long-term perspective.

For example, volunteer workers who seek for positive change in the future cannot be explained by Bentham’s standpoint. Human beings have an element that enables them to sacrifice themselves and find their lives worth living for social utility. In this way, Mill completed more refined utilitarian theory emphasizing the harmony between individual and society. In his famous work On Liberty, Mill put great emphasis on social liberty as well as individual liberty. He relates human behavior with social utility and stresses again that human beings are not obsessed with immediate interests.

He says that “I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive being. ” What we should take note from this is that human beings are progressive. This is the distinctive part where Mill’s theory excels Bentham’s. Aforementioned, men can desert present interest since they are progressive entities, expecting future advantages. In a word, Mill upgraded the notion of utility to the means to men’s durable profits. The concept ‘utility’ is used in modern political philosophy in relation to welfare.

In this manner, utilitarianism, from the nineteenth century to present days, has worked as a central part of political theories, and has had a great influence on democracy as a foundation of liberalism. Thus, to condemn utilitarianism as hedonistic theory cannot be justified. The last factor defending utilitarianism from such criticism is that it provides a basic ground for securing freedom of thought and speech. This is also closely connected with utilitarianism which formed the basis of Mill’s theory. Individual freedom should be guaranteed under any circumstances, because it is directly correlated to social utility.

Mill particularly gives priority to freedom of thought and speech more than any other freedom. The premise of the freedom of thought and speech is that every opinion has a possibility of being a fallacy. Mill insists that "If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth. " This can be justified from the utilitarian perspective, because every opinion, albeit it is a minority opinion, is possible enough to contribute to the progress of the society. All thoughts and expressions have utility for the development of humanity.

The fact known to us as a truth can turn out to be false at any time; the Copernican theory exploded pervading heliocentric theory and Einstein’s theory of relativity reversed existing scientific system. Consequentially, a maximum guaranteed freedom produces increased happiness for mankind. This is a crucial part of liberalism that emphasizes the minimization of the government intervention in individuals for every person’s freedom. Liberalism established by Mill became the very foundation of western political philosophy until Rawls’ theory appears.

From this, the importance of utilitarianism is induced; it is more than just hedonistic theory. So far we’ve gone through some reasons why utilitarianism is not the philosophy of swine that appeals to human instinct, putting Mill’s idea at the center. It is true that early utilitarian thinker Bentham suggested somewhat hedonistic theory. However, his idea of utilitarianism that consequence counts the most has worked as a fundamental root of utilitarianism and was revised, developed, and completed by Mill. Swine philosophy objection is only valid when criticizing Bentham, but it is also ard to deny that Bentham did contribute to the establishment of modern political thoughts by setting up a radical theory of that time. Thus, swine objection seems hard to be an effective critique to utilitarianism.

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