From The Selected Works of Mahatma Gandhi 1968, vol. 6 p. 230, ed. by Shriman Narayam - Gandhi
|Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948) was born in India and studied law in England. He is considered a worldwide icon of non-violent political resistance as he spent 20 years defending the rights of immigrants in South Africa then returne to India in 1914 and became the leader of the Indian National Congress when India was part of the British Empire. His public acts of defiance landed him in jail many times as the struggle continued through World War II. In 1947 he participated in the postwar negotiations with Britain that led to Indian independence. He was shot to death by a Hindu fanatic the next year. An advocate of simple living, Gandhi ate a vegetarian diet and made his own clothes; the spinning wheel became a symbol of his uncluttered lifestyle. Gandhi original name is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi while he is called as Mahatma which is a Hindu term meaning "Great Soul".||
The most 'useful' ethical principle for considering the consequence of actions is that of utilitarianism - although in a very real sense it is not an ethical principle at all.
The general principle is usually only traced back to Jeremy Bentham in the eighteenth century, but in fact, in the Platonic dialogue the Protagoras, a suggestion is made that what is needed is the ability to weigh-up the pleasures against the pains likely to result from an activity. Jeremy Benthamís popularised the idea, saying that the right action is the one that brings about the greatest happiness of the greatest number - the general happiness is the best thing. John Stuart Mill (1806-73) adopted this theory and specifically rejected alternative moral theories as representing the interests of the ruling class, not justice. Those who taught the virtue of a life of sacrifice, Mill, wrote, wanted others to sacrifice their lives to them. Both Mill and Bentham say that people desire to be happy, and that this is actually the only thing they desire. When various peoples' desires conflict, the utilitarian theory weighs up the consequences and decides which action produces the greater happiness.
However, the Ancient Greeks could not agree on that. While some, like the astronomer Eudoxus claimed that 'pleasure' was the sole good - (all other thing that we consider good are only because in some way they increase the amount of pleasure), Speusippus, on the contrary, held that pleasure (and pain) were two sides of the same thing- and that thing was evil. Utilitarianism thus is a way of maximising the amount of evil in the world!
Aristotle objected that utilitarianism neglects the virtue of character. In his Nicomachean Ethics he stresses instead that enjoying and hating the right things is the way to develop virtue of character. Neglecting the virtue of character in the blind execution of utilitarianism, as happening in our current world, makes a nation with the greatest number of people ignorant, prevail ignorance as the rule and leaving no room of living to those educated. This is a sign of a corrupted system where policy fails to maintain social order.
However, utilitarianism is flawed in many ways, Aristotle's view is just one criticism. In fact, it utilitarianism a kind of 'anti-ethics'. Its status as a kind of modern orthodoxy has many negative and cruel results, exemplified by the way it 'justifies' the violence with which the US and other 'developed' nations force their own interests upon the whole world.