Ethics and the Legal Environment

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), had a masters in English and classical languages, extensively studied logic, philosophy and law. He was a radical empiricist who held that all human knowledge is a generalization from sensory experience. His moral philosophy was a modified version of the utilitarian theory. In this theory, he developed a systematic statement of utilitarian ethical theory in which he argued for the general principle that right actions are those that tend to produce the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people.

He made an attempt to proof the utility principle and discussed its relation to the principle of justice (John, 1989). The paper observe Mill’s contribution in the utilitarian ethical theory in which he assumed from the onset that it is broadly agreed that the consequences of human actions contribute to their moral value. This theory as prompted by Mill helps us to establish the moral worth of promoting higher pleasures even when their momentary intensity may be less than that of alternative lower pleasures.

According to this theory, time limit in calculating every action, leads us to allow our actions to be guided by moral rules and that the value of each action is determined by reference to the principle of utility itself (Mark, 2003). The U. S. congress backing introduction of tighter rules on lobbying would provide a good insight into Mill’s utilitarian theory. In this issue, the senate gave a final approval to new ethics and lobbying rules with an agreement of improving policing of the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists.

If the bill is signed into law, then members of the congress would face new restrictions banning gifts, meals and travel paid for by lobbyists. The reforms, and with reference to Mill’s theory aimed at convincing the constituents that these lawmakers advocate for their best interests but not those of the lobbyists. Thus the lawmakers had to choose between to actions; retaining their trust with the people or fighting for their own interests.

The utilitarian theory would thus help us understand why the lawmakers choose one action (passing the law) and not the other. Thus the universal agreement on the role of moral sanctions in eliciting proper conduct from human agents as postulated by the theory applies in this case (Tony, 1999). John Stuart Mill in his theory of utilitarian ethics did give a clear and important insight on today’s human actions helping us to make not only our own decisions but to make them right not forgetting the understanding actions of other social actors.

The theory of utilitarian ethics in today’s world of business does help us make logical decisions in our endeavors. In addition, it helps us understand the actions of those around us and also to weigh our priorities in order to achieve greatest happiness in all our undertakings.


John, S (1989) John Stuart Mill on Utilitarianism. London, Routledge Mark, R (2003) Business Ethics. New York, Prentice Hall Tony, J (1999) The Principles of Human Ethics. London, Routledge