‘Increasing pleasure is more important than ending pain and suffering.’ How far would utilitarian’s agree with this statement? A utilitarian’s opinion on increasing pleasure rather than ending pain would depend upon the severity of the case being assessed. Although utilitarianism is used to decide whether or not in theory carrying out an act will bring about more pleasure, some utilitarian’s may argue that there are cases of suffering which require more serious attention, to put an end to that pain rather than allowing it to continue in order to attend to a act which is already bringing about happiness.
The idea of achieving increasing pleasure would appeal to a utilitarian as in theory the whole of utilitarianism is based on this aim. Some utilitarian’s may argue that despite a lot of acts having the potential to cause pain, the suffering of a few is a small price to pay for the happiness of the overall majority. An example of this is a just war, although the few involved may suffer the end of it and the solution will lead to the happiness of many.As well as this, there may be situations that occur in which the pain caused is minimal and the pleasure caused greatly outweighs the pain for example; child birth is without doubt going to cause pain, but in comparison to the long-term potential it offers for the lives of the people the child will be involved in makes up for the pain caused to the mother.
However, other utilitarians may argue that the severity of the pain caused by some situations should be more important and addressed before increasing happiness, by doing this and ending pain would bring about happiness, as the people affected are no longer suffering. In terms of Mill and applying his theory, if it is only a ‘lower pleasure’ then what would be the point in building on this happiness if it isn’t long term? The idea of the pain and suffering caused to someone is so great and there seems to be no way of putting a stop to it, the whole point of utilitarianism is undermined. Also, there is the example of the swine ethic; one woman’s pain brings ten men happiness, which contradicts Bentham’s idea completely as in this example, one person’s pain is another person’s pleasure, so where is the middle ground.
Overall, the answer to the statement would depend on the individual utilitarian. A rule utilitarian is more likely to have an answer depending on the rules which apply to the situation, whereas an act utilitarian would have to weigh up the seriousness of the situation, along with then comparing it to the pain suffered by others. They would then have to consider the idea that, if one person’s pleasure caused another person’s pain, is the pleasure not extinguished completely? Along with the idea of, stopping suffering completely, would great happiness for the greatest number and benefits the community as a whole, which complies with the ideas of both Bentham and Mill.