J.S. Mill and John Paul II: Utilitarianism and Loving Your Neighbour
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Jesus Christ’s Commandment to Love one’s neighbour as one’s self in Mark 12:28-31 plays a pivotal role in the social moral doctrine of nineteenth century philosopher John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism and of twentieth century philosopher Pope John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility. The difference between their respective interpretations is in each man’s definition of love. Believing the human drive to obtain pleasure and to mitigate pain to be the moral arbiter of all consequence, Mill equates Christ’s definition of love with utilitarian notions of pleasure, utility, and happiness. In response to such claims, and with a specific focus on how this mentality negatively affects marriage and family, John Paul II primarily argues that love does not necessarily beget pleasure, utility, happiness, or pain’s mitigation, and that true love is not a feeling but an action, whereby one prizes another’s innate dignity above such things. Mill’s moral order is rooted in happiness – an inherently personal, subjective, and therefore inconstant moral standard; social harmony is achieved by protecting and adding to one’s own happiness and to the happiness of others, and by ensuring society’s freedom from unhappiness. Conversely, JPII first subordinates concerns for personal happiness to God, in accordance with Chris’s first Commandment, and thereby to the objective, unchanging and therefore constant nature of the human person. Social harmony is achieved by mirroring Christ’s example of subtracting from his own life to serve others; thus, pleasure may be foregone and pain experienced in the interest of upholding human dignity and refraining from mere use of others. These differences are rooted in Mill’s agnostic view that earthly happiness is life’s primary purpose, and in JPII’s Christian view that life’s purpose is love through self-giving to the point of suffering, which in turn results in eternal joy through, with, and in God. Despite these differences, both agree that serving others must be life’s primary aim.
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Ernest Joseph McCullough (2021). J.S. Mill and John Paul II: Utilitarianism and Loving Your Neighbour. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/16752