Utilitarianism Despite making valid claims on justice, John Stuart Mill s attempt to reconcile justice and utility is not successful. Mill explains how justice dictates certain actions and results; however, he does not thoroughly explain how each aspect promotes the most utility for all. In other words, Mill describes how the different interpretations of justice are often interpreted, while explaining that there is too individual interpretation, he demonstrates how justice cannot be reconciled with utility. Mill begins his argument by giving five interpretations of justice. First, is the notion that it is”unjust to deprive a person of their liberty, property, or any other thing which belongs to him”(Mill, 43). Next he goes on to describe how justice, when interpreted as a legal right, should always be upheld and thoroughly obeyed. Mill attacks this claim by explaining that laws are sometimes unjust, and that most laws follow the general laws of what is morally right.
Thus in most instances, as Mill claims, laws are not needed. He then goes on to examine the claim that justice can be correlated to what one “deserves”(Mill, 44). This claim also leaves too much room for individual pleasure. The next rule of justice Mill discusses refers to the notion of faith. According to Mill this rule is, “not regarded as absolute, but as capable of begin overruled by a stronger obligation of justice on the other side..”(Mill, 44).
Lastly, Mill explains how being “partial” is not in accordance with justice. By disallowing partiality, a general interpretation of justice warrants impartiality, which then would in turn promote the most utility for all. According to Mill the notion that justice promotes “impartiality” is a contradiction. Mill declares that “equality”, which emerges from impartiality, cannot exist in a hierarchical society. Furthermore, he says that, “those who think that utility requires distinctions of rank do not consider it unjust that riches and social privileges should be unequally dispensed”(Mill, 45). Mill conveys the idea that justice has a flaw in that is allows for different people to have different levels of utility.
This placing of one groups desires for utility above anothers is congruent to the act-utlilitarians claim that all actions should are determined by their consequences. Thus, under act-utilitarianism one may be impartial as long his or actions promote the best consequences, which in this case would deprive not promote a shred utility. In conclusion, Mill reiterates that does not have a clear understanding of the common link between the different interpretations of justice. He states, “among so many diverse applications of the term justice, which yet is not regarded as ambiguous, it is a matter of some difficulty to seize the mental link which holds them together, and on which the moral sentiment adhering to the term essentially depends”(Mill, 45).