In Utilitarianism, explain the objection that utilitarianism is a doctrine of expediency. What is Mill’s response? (22-23)
In the second chapter of this essay, entitled "What Utiltarianism Is," Mill identifies and responds to a number of criticisms that have been raised against utilitarianism as a philosophical position. One of these is the way in which utilitarianism has been identified as being the same as expediency, and is therefore considered to be immoral. Mill counters this attack on utilitarianism by arguing that expediency is being misinterpreted. He examines it and chooses to define as as acting in a way that is opposite to what is "right" in order to meet short-term goals and for personal interest. Mill takes the example of somebody choosing to tell a lie in order to avoid short-term embarrassment:
When it means anything better than this, it means that which is expedient for some immediate object, some temporary purpose, but which violates a rule whose observance is expedient in a much higher degree. The Expedient, in this sense, instead of being the same thing with the useful, is a branch of the hurtful.
Expediency therefore is actually defined as being negative because of the harm that it causes. Mill thus argues that expediency cannot be viewed as being useful, as harming society cannot be considered to be expedient. To act against the interests of society at large is to be immoral. Therefore Mill argues that expediency cannot be conflated in any way with utilitarianism, as it is expediency that is immoral, and not utilitarianism. He argues that the two terms are very separate and different, and cannot be confused with one another.