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Introduction to Ethics - Philosopher John Stuart Mill

Autor:   •  January 19, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,298 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,198 Views

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Introduction to Ethics


For thousands of years people have deliberated over morals and ethics and the philosophy of life. This paper addresses these issues and looks at two philosophers and their views on these topics. I selected these two philosophers based solely on the merit to their philosophy of ethics and morals and that which is written about them, and their prominence in the field. It seems as if many of the other philosophers have piggy-backed on their works, whereas, many citations are present in the works of many of the other philosophers. They are John Stewart Mill and David Hume and my paper will address their philosophies of life.

Philosopher John Stuart Mill:

John Mill was born in 1806 and died in 1873, and seen by many as the most prominent English philosophers of the nineteenth century. Mill has been recognized as a substantial contributor to logic, epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, political philosophy, social theory, and was one of the last systematic philosophers. Mill was also a prominent and very influential public figure, who helped to articulate liberal policy, lobbing for liberal reforms during the time that he served in the British Parliament (Brink, 2007).

In his writings, Mill maintains support for numerous controversial principles. Mill supports radical empiricism in logic and mathematics, proposing that rudimentary principles of logic and mathematics are sweeping statements from experience rather than from the previous. The principal of utility states “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; which he disagrees with, and what he says is that they tend yield the reverse of happiness”, which was the core of his ethical philosophy. Mills principal on harm stated “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others (Mill, 1848).” In his subjection of women, he links the legal standing of women to that of slaves and argued for women’s rights and that an equal position in marriage should be law.

Mill's most momentous improvements to utilitarian traditions are his assertions on the nature and role of happiness in human motivation. Mill understood happiness in a hedonistic manner, as a pursuit or devotion to pleasure, and believed that the ultimate purpose of each individual is principally, if not wholly, the promotion of the individual’s personal happiness (Mill, 1848).

Philosopher David Hume:

Hume concentrated most of his time in his life contemplating nature of knowledge, morality, and causality, and not with molding a philosophy for his own life (Cohon, 2010), however his life and his work, offers some insight in what manner he lived. Hume asserted that people are a slave to their passions,


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