During utilitarianism by using utility as the opposite

During the late 19th century, traditional Western religion, morality, and philosophy were extremely influential to the unsuccessful democratic rebellions of 1830 and 1848. During this time, ideas against the status quo were ridiculed or simply seen as radical. With this in mind, writers John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Nietzsche explored the benefits of encouraging individualism in a democratic culture. Mill and Nietzsche agree modern society promotes conformity and uniformity which undermines the existence of strong and diverse individuals. Both saw traditions and customs, particularly religion, as chains on the mind which should be abolished. Although traditions and customs including religion, created powerful and intelligent individuals in the past, Mill and Nietzsche agree we need to find new ways of producing powerful and intelligent individuals for the future. This paper will compare and contrast the fundamental ideas behind individualism and morality in On Liberty (1859) by John Stuart Mill, and On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) by Friedrich Nietzsche. Both philosophers, Mill and Nietzsche make contrasting and similar contributions to our understanding of the two terms. I intend to explore how each philosopher does this and the differences and similarities between their two perspectives.Mill’s approach to human morality is based on a pleasure and pain balance system. John Stuart Mill’s basis for morality is based on Jeremy Bentham’s theory known as Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism consists of doing what is best for the greatest number. However, Mill argued that many people misunderstand utilitarianism by using utility as the opposite to pleasure. In reality, utility is defined as pleasure itself, and the absence of pain. Pleasure or happiness are the only things desirable to individuals. Therefore, any circumstance, event, or experience is judged on the amount of pleasure or pain it causes to society. Actions are considered good when they lead to a higher level of general happiness, and bad when they decrease that level. This utility rule holds that actions are morally right if they tend to promote happiness and morally wrong if they tend to produce the opposite of happiness. This principle is closely related to Christian morals where an action is looked as good when it benefits the majority, and looked as bad when it benefits oneself. With this Utilitarian mindset, Mill seeks to promote happiness for the greatest number of individuals in a society. He adds that pursuing one’s self-interest is acceptable if it results in what is best for the greatest good. When examining morals, Friedrich Nietzsche and John Stuart Mill have different points of view on this matter. Nietzsche was highly critical of Utilitarianism because he questioned the meaning of good and bad actions. He wondered, “Where did this conception good come from?” (Nietzsche, p. 3). There are multiple conceptions of good, Nietzsche questioned what good meant. He asked, Why is good seen as “good?” Is it just because it is what it seems to be best for most? According to Nietzsche, “People,” so they proclaim, “originally praised unegoistic actions and called them good from the perspective of those for whom they were done, that is, those for whom such actions were useful. Later, people forgot how this praise began, and because unegoistic actions had, according to custom, always been praised as good, people then simply felt them as good, as if they were something inherently good” (Nietzsche, p. 7). As can be seen, Mill is arguing that actions have always been perceived as good by the majority such as donating food to the homeless, but people unwittingly assume these things are good in themselves. He’s focusing on how society assigns labels to things, and how we just go along with these definitions instead of thinking about them. Therefore, the greater good is not necessarily always good, in absolute terms, so he would argue against it. Nietzsche argues that those who resist falling into society’s definitions of what they perceive is goodness. Thus, Friedrich Nietzsche would disagree with John Stuart Mill on Utilitarianism, responding that Utilitarianism would fall under what Nietzsche called “slave morals” –  a master and slave relationship, in which there is the powerful master and the weak slave.  Further, in order to understand Nietzsche’s view of morality, one must keep in mind his perspectivist views. The reason that the slave sees the master as bad is that the actions of the master have had bad consequences for him, and the reason that the master sees them as good is that they have had good consequences for him. An example of the master slave relationship is Christianity, in which Nietzsche suggested that slaves would believe in it to make them feel good or worthy while being slaves and for being weak. Mill ultimately believes that individuals have liberty and the right to pursue happiness without government interference. We must first understand who or what exercises power over individuals in a society. As is commonly accepted by most people, governments, be they authoritarian, monarchical, or democratic, are always a threat to individual liberty. Every  society comes to adopt customs, beliefs, opinions, and attitudes which are accepted by the majority as the ‘right’ way of thinking and living. In On Liberty, Mill focuses a great deal on defining individuality and arguing its importance. He states that, “The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it” (Mill, p. 16). Mill is implying that we should have the liberty to do what we want without the government intervening. Mill argues that if achieving your ultimate goal means harming other people physically, this is unsuitable. Overall, Mill wanted what was best for everyone, especially the majority of individuals.   As opposed to Mills, Nietzsche viewed liberty more liberally than Mills, suggesting that people should pursue their liberties even if that meant that weaker, less noble people might feel offense or suffer. He believed that “good” individuals should make the most of their abilities. This allows them to become their most excellent selves. Further, Nietzsche argued that the approval of the common people should not matter. For example, Nietzsche criticized Christianity because he felt that Christianity prevented individuals from perfecting their talents. According to Nietzsche, “Today the church alienates more than it seduces. . . Who among us would really be a free spirit if the church were not there? The church repels us, not its poison. . . .Apart from the church, we love the poison” (Nietzsche, p. 13). By suggesting that the Church is poison, Nietzsche is saying that Christianity was making the common people feel power, by making their weakness feel like strength. Nietzsche also criticized the common people, also known as the herd. He said that if you are part of the herd, you most likely will not be anybody. Further, he expressed that someone should not be seen as evil or bad because they are pursuing their goals, which contrasts with Mill. Life is not easy, so those with more challenges in life, people would become stronger because they are fighting a battle, making them more powerful as human beings. As Nietzsche states, “To talk of just and unjust in themselves has no sense whatsoever—it’s obvious that in themselves harming, oppressing, exploiting, destroying cannot be “unjust,” inasmuch as life essentially works that way, that is, in its basic functions it harms, oppresses, exploits, and destroys—and cannot be conceived at all without these characteristics” (Nietzsche, p. 37). Nietzsche is expressing that life is not fair, and those who can struggle and overcome life’s challenges have a superior will to power. The primary distinction between Mill and Nietzsche can be found in Mill’s limitation on the expression of individuality: the individual has no right to actions that would harm others. Nietzsche, on the other hand, sees that one has to do what they deem is best for them, whether it hurts others or not. He believes this is the way to reach true happiness, and the will to power. The will to power is a metapsychics point of view that Nietzsche views as you are what you are, and that is your destiny. For instance, if you are meant to be sick and fragile, that is your will to power, and vice versa if you are meant to be strong and healthy, that is your will of power. Both Mill and Nietzsche see individuals as the force behind progress in society. It is important for there to be individuals that are willing to be oppositional or “eccentric”so that society can flourish. If individualism is not encouraged, society would become stagnant and fail. Mill stresses that individuals are important for society in a democracy where the majority rules. Mill feared that there would be a “tyranny of the majority,” and the minority perspectives would not get heard. This is why he stresses the liberty of thought and opinion. Mill believes that every opinion is important to be heard no matter true or false. According to Mill, “The human faculties of perception, judgement, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice. He who does anything because it is the custom, makes no choice. He gains no practice either in discerning or in desiring what is best. The mental and moral, like the muscular powers, are improved only by being used” (Mill, p. 59). Therefore, individual liberty must not be oppressed because it prevents progress. People view pain and pleasure differently and they should not be shunned for that. It should be a right to go against the status quo and cultivate new ideas and policies. For an individual to have sovereignty enhances their mind, and in the long run, ensures a healthy society.  For Nietzsche, individuals were important for society because they would be looked up to as a role model. For example, if society views an individual as exceptional and sees how successful they are, this may encourage others to become the same way. However, in Nietzsche’s view, in order to be exceptional and powerful, one must be selfish, not concerned with what others think. If one gets too caught up in others’ opinions and beliefs, one will never develop as an individual and never be able to inspire real progress in society.  Superior individuals are needed to guide those that cannot lead. Many of these individuals are educated because Nietzsche believed highly of intellectual power. Further, Nietzsche believed that the task of exceptional individuals is to become what they are and to not be confined by the limitations of the Christianity morals, as conventional morality only limits individuals. He suggested that Judeo-Christian morality stifles the progress of the superior person and shames them for their uniqueness. In addition, individuality actually helps the superior person develop spiritually. In other words, the conformity of morals are for the masses, not for those individuals that see more and can be enlightened beyond good and evil in that master slave sense of conditioned morality.Mill believes that we must question current ideas and discover new truths so we mayhave a better understanding of human life. We have to argue and listen to other arguments and keep expanding our knowledge. With this form of reasoning, the pursuit of knowledge will continue to progress as long as there are questions and challenges to truth. Even contemporary American society is afraid of those who stray away from the norm. Society still does not approve or accept seemingly deviant individuals; it is still embedded with traditional religious customs. Nietzsche would argue that we must remain progressive and aim to produce more individuals. Individual freedom brings upon genius because of the freedom to experiment different types of lifestyles. Each person is able to make mistakes and learn from them to make them better in life. Mill states that, “the despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement, being an unceasing antagonism to that disposition to aim at something better than customary which is called according to circumstances the spirit of liberty or that of progress or improvement” (Mill, p. 70). As we continue to religiously follow customs based on the morals instilled in society, we prevent any real human progression.     Given these points on individualism from Mill and Nietzsche, it is important to bring up Tocqueville’s concerns on individualism. Tocqueville feared that individuality would disrupt democracy because individuals would be too concerned with themselves, instead of being productive members in society. Although innovation and progress are important for everyone, there has to be a line between equality and liberty. Tocqueville saw dynamism in intersection of a participatory democracy and commercial competition, meaning that individuals take part in commercial and industrial associations as well as pop culture.Mill sees dynamism in the interaction of different, even opposing points of view. Mill would encourage debate to come upon truth and opposition. Nietzsche sees dynamism in the individual’s struggle to be true to himself and break free from traditional morality.     In its present form of their times, Mill was more correct in his theory of individualism than Nietzsche, since  religion has remained a prominent morality along with many others. However, there has been individuals who sought Nietzsche’s individualism.  Yet those individuals are still seen as narcissistic, and as conceited. Nietzsche mistakenly assigns the power of value only to those individuals he deems worthy, which can also cause  tyranny in society. All individuals should be seen as equal with the potential to be great like others. This might have been avoided if he had a thorough, standard way of determining who has the power of value. He gives moral worth only to those that he relates to, and he criticizes all those to whom he doesn’t relate. He expresses that they do not have intellectual or moral worth. Ultimately, Nietzsche ideology informed Adolf Hitler’s idea of Nazism, where Jews were seen as the weak, common people.. However, Hitler believed they had to be removed in order to enact his ideal society.     For the most part, many of Mill’s ideas are still used today. The liberty to state your argument whether it is correct or incorrect is very liberating – and it is also a fundamental aspect of Democracy. When it comes to laws, laws are put in place for the majority of society’s well-being, but there are  exceptions for special cases like children.  In a way, Mill had a more of a common ground ideology, focusing on a more inclusive, safe society.  Mill would probably disagree with Nietzsche’s will to power since he believes everyone is capable of reaching their full potential, it just takes practice and time. He saw individuals of society as part of a social contract. According to Mill, “Though society is not founded on a contract… everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest” (Mill, p. 75). This agreement guarantees protection against harm but also protects your liberty to thought and opinion. In order to feel peace of mind, one has to obey.     Although Mill and Nietzsche have commonalities, we can conclude that Mill is moreof a progressive ideological thinker. The idea of progress is deeply embedded in Mill’s ideology.He wants individuals to improve themselves, and as result, improve society as a whole. He hopes for people to develop themselves without serious government intervention taking place. Because Nietzsche aims at creating virtuous individuals based on a certain set of morals, he is not concerned with human rights. His real focus is on aiming at the greater good, and falling into traditional roles such as the role of a woman as a wife, mother and homemaker. He seeks to improve tradition, and not move away from traditional values and attitudes. Mill instead focuses on individuals and protecting the basic rights we have as human beings, meaning he is straying away from traditional values. He wants to progress and break traditional attitudes of society. He wants to protect individuals from violations of society, unless warranted through self protections. Laws that violate our basic human rights should be called into question. Overall, Mill has been more influential in society compared to Nietzsche, however they both highlight the importance of being a true individual in a democratic society.