Mill's "Harm Principle" a part of His Utilitarianism?

Reply Sun 19 Mar, 2017 08:58 pm
One of the critiques of classic Utilitarianism (the sort first proposed by Jeremy Bentham) is that it can recommend despicable actions so long as they produce 'the greatest happiness to the greatest number'. For example, if ritually sacrificing a small child brought great happiness to the larger community classic Utilitarianism would say we should do it.

But am I correct in believing John Stuart Mill's 'Harm Principle' influenced his version of Utilitarianism so that it precluded such harmful acts to individuals? In other words Mill's belief that "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", acts as a veto on any harmful action deemed morally permissible by classic Utilitarianism?
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Reply Mon 20 Mar, 2017 01:43 am
The short answer is, "yes, of course."

However, it should be pointed out that Mill's concept of the "Harm Principle" was not apriori. It was the (as he viewed it) inextricable relationship between individual liberty and pleasure that made the "Harm Principal" utilitarian.
Fil Albuquerque
Reply Mon 20 Mar, 2017 04:31 am
I wonder what Utilitarianism would have to say to Sado-Maso practices...
Where is the frontier between Sanity and a troubled mind or culture.
What does Utilitarianism has to say bout Muslim women who alledgly freely embrance opression?
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Reply Mon 20 Mar, 2017 05:25 am
Thanks, I asked mainly because of all the detractors of Utilitarianism I've seen complaining that it allows for disastrous results, like the one I mentioned. My reaction has always been "haven't they heard of the 'Harm Principle'?"

In my opinion the Harm Principle is a nice bulwark to prevent such misapplications of classic Utilitarianism. So whenever I speak of Utilitarianism I'm actually referring to Mill's version, but since his HP appeared in "On Liberty" rather than his essay, "Utilitarianism", I wondered if that allowed some to not consider it part of his version of the theory.
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