March 26, 2007

Stuart Mill claims that happiness should be seen as an end to itself. Likewise, as the notion of utilitarianism is an end to itself and this is why the theory has been studied in the first place. Utilitarianism is achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number. And this is exactly the point where the argument on Mill’s aggregate happiness could be made, since when we are referring to the aggregate or collective or the total of all happiness for all people together, we must keep in mind that certain human experiences might indeed add up to a compound happiness but do not necessarily mean that a pure, fundamental happiness occurs.

The desire of people to achieve their happiness in any means possible is the high-quality desire that has a blissful end on their life and therefore according to Mill the general good for an individual adds up to the general, universal happiness. Therefore, happiness may be derived from the individual desire but not all people see the same happiness or at least not everyone is craving for similar happiness.

Let’s think of the people who live in societies which forbid the citizens from traveling abroad since there are quite a few of these countries. These people who live within a specific society may desire certain things to make them happy but they are truly limited from perceiving other pleasures, like the pleasure and happiness from the desire to travel and meet new cultures; In other words be totally free; free like a bird that spreads its wings and fly. For these people happiness is perceived under the specific conditions that they are familiar with. The case is quite the fact that people on top of the human hierarchy, the wealthy and the strict in such a society are these who actually control the rest of the people’s happiness. In contrast, a society of not so many limitations will definitely see happiness at a somehow different extend. Yes, individuals in both societies may desire to be happy but the terms of their happiness do not match, do not correlate and should not be seen as compounds of the general happiness that Mill writes about. Because it is not clear which of the two is the accurate, truthful and universal happiness. In addition, we can’t be fully positive whether a pleasure is indeed a good one. Do not forget that many do not accomplish what they like to see as pleasure and that is why we have strikes, wars and hunger. Remember that many live in misery and do almost everything to at least acquire a temporary happiness but not a strong, persisting happiness that has the significance to be included in the aggregate pleasure. It is not therefore possible to compare two unrelated situations that involve happiness at their very different end. They are parts of a nonrepresentational, distinctive and situational happiness and they both belong to two separate ends therefore shouldn’t be seen as parts of the same, aggregate end.