Grey Thoughts
More On Utilitarianism
After my previous post on it, I have been thinking more about Utilitarianism. John Stuart Mill, one of the big names in bringing utilitarianism to the fore, based his support for it on one thing the idea that "everyone in fact does act for pleasure, for themselves or others". There seems to be a couple of obvious problems with this.

Firstly, if we take it at face value, then every act is done for pleasure of the person or other persons. Yet this means that the term 'acting for pleasure' becomes meaningless as it is impossible to not 'act for pleasure' (much the same is the statement that everyone acts out of selfishness).

Secondly, if people all act for pleasure, then why is that a valid reason to define pleasure as the basis of goodness. It is like saying that everyone acts selfishly, so we should all act selflessly. Not only is it an irrational progression, but it also ignores the is-ought problem. That is, just because something happens in a certain way does not mean it ought to happen that way in the future.
It is strange contemporary trend to say that any universal statement is meaningless simply because it is universal. So, if I say (wrongly) that "everyone always acts for pleasure", it is meaningless; and if Freud says, "the unconscious mind is always at work", it is meaningless; and so on. But these expressions have meaning, and they say things that are significant.

Psychological hedonism might be wrong at times. Sometimes I perform actions which don't produce any happiness, and which are not the result of happiness. (I just turned my head, for instance, with little discernable contentment involved.) But it is right enough for utility's purposes.

You're right to point out that happiness does not have any intrinsic moral value. Rather, it is the tendency of certain acts to produce greater happiness among self and others which has defeasible, instrumental moral value.
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