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Utilitarianism as expounded by Mill departs from unmixed hedonism in two respects. First of all, Mill’s Utilitarianism admits the importance of the relationship between the individual and the collectivity introduces altruism, and prescribes value in such a manner that maximum number of people can share maximum pleasure. This concern for collectivity may, in practice, collide with individual pleasure and may oblige the individual to sacrifice his own personal pleasure. Secondly, Mill recognises different kinds of pleasures and that one ought to cultivate higher pleasures. This admission on the part of Mill dilutes the hedonistic position that the only thing that is desirable is pleasure. For if pleasures constitute a hierarchy, the difference between the lower and the higher pleasures implies that there is something else than pleasure which makes a superior quality superior. In other words, it would appear impossible to hold that pleasure is the only thing which is desirable, and yet to maintain that pleasures can differ in quality.


The formulation of Rashdall, who has called his ethical theory “Ideal Utilitarianism”, combines the utilitarian principle that ethics must be teleological with a non-hedonistic view of the ethical end. According to this view, “actions are right or wrong according to whether they tend to produce for all mankind an ideal end or good, which includes, but is not limited to pleasure.”[1]

In fact, Rashdall speaks of three axioms of Prudence, Benevolence, and Equity, which are assumed in moral judgments. According to him, it is self-evident that that one ought to promote one’s own greatest good when it does not collide with the greater good of another, that one ought to prefer a greater good on the whole to a lesser, and that one ought to regard the good of one man as of equal intrinsic value with the like good of another one else. It will be seen that although in this theory pleasure is a value, it is explicitly recognised that it is not the only value and that there are other values where the relationship between the individual and the collectivity come to play a decisive role, and the resultant value system recognises the principle of justice.


[1] Rashdall, Theory of Good and Evil, p.184.

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