- 法政大学文学部紀要 = Bulletin of the Faculty of Letters, Hosei University (ISSN:04412486)
- vol.78, pp.67-109, 2019-03-18
John Stuart Mill endeavored to prove the principle of utility in his essay Utilitarianism. He argued that people’s social nature is the source of the sanction of the principle of utility and the fact that each person desires his or her own happiness is the basis of the goodness of general happiness, which is the object of the principle of utility. His arguments are concerned with human nature, specifically natural feelings and desires. However, his observation of human nature has two problems. Firstly, the principle of utility treats everyone’s happiness as equal. However, it does not coincide with people’s innate dispositions, because people tend to cherish themselves, their relatives, neighbors, and friends much more than strangers or acquaintances. It is our nature to treat people unequally. Secondly, Mill focuses on specific parts of our nature, especially social feelings like the desire to be in unity with fellow creatures, as the source of the sanction of the principle of utility. However, humans naturally have a variety of dispositions, including anti-social ones like egoistic desires or competitive spirits.We have to take into account the whole of the elements and workings of the human mind when we consider human nature. The human mind, as a whole, works to produce adaptive and beneficial behaviors according to present circumstances from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, and we can understand human nature egoistically with this perspective. This kind of view of human nature is named “absolute psychological egoism.”Some people may say that Mill’s proof is based on an egoistic view of human nature because he stresses the human desire for personal happiness as a ground for the principle of utility. However, his reasoning in connecting that desire with the principle of utility includes some fallacies. Some scholars are attempting to defend Mill in this regard, but they do not succeed in it, especially concerning the fallacy of composition. The principle of utility and Mill’s proof of it are based on some altruistic elements of the human mind and thus do not accord with an egoistic view of human nature.