Son, can we talk for a second?

As you know, your mother and I have worked hard to make this a good, clean, utilitarian household — a home that follows the 19th-century doctrine of utilitarianism (the moral philosophy that states that we should always try to maximize happiness for the greatest number of people).

And I thought we were in agreement on this one, bucko.

But I’ve been hearing some rumors, and it’s high time that we had a little chat. So listen up, because I’m going to say this once:

No son of mine is going to practice the kind of disgusting utilitarianism that was originally proposed by Jeremy Bentham!

I’m sorry… a Benthamite utilitarian? In my household?

Are you freaking kidding me?

This is a John Stuart Mill family, dammit! And in my home, under my roof, we only practice the utilitarian philosophical teachings specifically proposed by John Stuart Mill.


Oh. I know what you’re gonna say: “But daaad, Jeremy Bentham was essentially the founder of modern-day utilitarianism!” And then you add: “But daaaaaaad, Jeremy Bentham was John Stuart Mill’s greatest influence and, consequentially, even though Mill proposed a slightly more-nuanced school of utilitarianism, we should still recognize that Benthamite utilitarianism is a viable philosophical perspective.”

Don’t make me wash out your mouth with soap, buddy boy.

This is a John Stuart Mill family! And, even though Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill are ideologically similar, I refuse to let my son believe in Bentham’s very-slightly-different version of ethics.

Or did you forget?

See, in this family, we DON’T just want to maximize the overall quantity of individual happiness (like Bentham). No… In this family, we want to maximize the overall quantity AND the quality of individual happiness (like John Stuart Mill).

Seriously, do you really think that hedonistic, short-term pleasure is just as good as long-term fulfillment?

It’s like night and day, you dimwit!

Even more importantly, in this family, we DO NOT try to maximize overall societal happiness through individual actions on a case-by-case basis (like that coward Bentham did). No, in this household, we try to maximize overall societal happiness through overarching RULES that apply to broad, general situations!

Come on… I mean, act-based utilitarianism? Act-based utilitarianism?

You think that I have the freaking time to calculate the ethical ramifications of every single action I perform on a day-to-day basis?

You think I have that kind of luxury???

It’s like I don’t even recognize my own son anymore.

And, sure, I know you’re young. And I know that we all make mistakes when we’re younger — you think that I didn’t dabble with different moral ideologies when I was your age? I mean, I certainly read my fair share of Spinoza with all the cool kids behind the bleachers… and I kept an annotated copy of Georg Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit hidden in the back of my sock drawer.

Hell, for a while I was convinced that the duty-based philosophy of universalizable ethics by Immanuel Kant was, as the kids might say, “pretty gangster.”

What an idiot I was back then.

But, you see, even though I was tempted by other, inferior forms of moral philosophy… I always came back to utilitarianism. And, more specifically, I always came back to John Stuart Mill’s highly-specific version of utilitarianism — a form of utilitarianism which (I repeat) is one billion times better than Jeremy Bentham’s lukewarm dog turd of a philosophy.

Because this is a John Stuart Mill family, dammit. And you can either see things my way, or you can hit the road, bucko.

Anyways. I’ve said my piece. But, just remember, the next time you’re tempted to read a passage from Jeremy Bentham’s seminal 1789 treatise The Principles of Morals and Legislation don’t forget that this is my house. And as long as you live under my roof, you’re gonna be following my extremely niche (and extremely specific) perspective on philosophy.

Now stop crying, already… that’s not what utilitarianism is about at all.