In Utilitarianism, Mill replied to a number of other important criticisms of the utilitarian doctrine.
First, the utilitarian greatest-happiness principle is said to be too exalted in expecting human beings to adopt a disinterested moral posture. Mill’s reply is that in serving the interests of one’s fellow creatures, the motive may be either self-interest or duty. The resulting act rather than the motive must be judged, though the motive of duty can influence people to honor the character of the doer as well. People can promote the general interests of society without always fixing “their minds upon so wide a generality as the world, or society at large.”
Second, to the charge that utilitarianism will make people cold and unsympathizing, Mill answers that people should show interest in things other than those concerned with standards of right and wrong. Yet it is necessary to emphasize the need of making judgments of right and wrong and to supply moral standards for human behavior.
Third, Mill calls simply false the view that utilitarianism is a godless doctrine. Religiously inclined people can use the utilitarian standard to determine what in detail the will of God means for human action.
Fourth, some critics complain that utilitarianism will end in expediency. Mill’s rebuttal is that the utility principle does not justify acts that result only in the pleasure of the lone individual. The social standard must always operate.
Fifth, Mill argues that utilitarianism can account even for the actions of martyrs and heroes. Heroism and martyrdom involve individual sacrifices whose ultimate aim is an increase in the happiness of others or of society as a whole.
Other criticisms—that utilitarianism overlooks lack of time for people to decide the results of given actions and that utilitarians may use the doctrine to exempt themselves from moral rules—are shown to apply equally to other ethical doctrines.