How does Mill's rule utilitarianism differ from Bentham's act utilitarianism?

  • Google+ icon
  • LinkedIn icon

Assuming a general understanding of Bentham's act utilitarianism, the difference lies in that Mill takes a more qualitative (concerning quality and non quantifiable understanding) approach to pleasure rather than Bentham's method of measuring pleasure which is quantitative, and derived by using the hedonic calculus.

Mill thought that pleasures have different values and distingushed between higher and lower pleasures. Higher pleasures being those associated with the mind and intellectual pursuits. And Lower pleasures being those associated with the body such as satisfying the bodily need for food.

He felt that higher pleasures are more desireable than lower ones. He said, "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied". REMEMBER: it is always good to use quotations to demonstrate your understanding.

In addition, he believed that rules whould be formulated first, based on the utilitarian princciples. The individual can then judge whether specific acts are acceptable.

In contrast, Bentham's act utilitarianism states that each action should be judged on it's ability to bring the greatest happiness for the greatest number.

Mill's development can be explaned as a system that includes the individuals conscience, instead of the harsh and mechanistic appraoch of Bentham's act utilitarianism.

Anna S. GCSE Economics tutor, GCSE Philosophy and Ethics tutor, A Lev...

About the author

is an online A Level Philosophy and Ethics tutor with MyTutor studying at Warwick University

Still stuck? Get one-to-one help from a personally interviewed subject specialist.

95% of our customers rate us

Browse tutors

We use cookies to improve your site experience. By continuing to use this website, we'll assume that you're OK with this. Dismiss