Plato Tom Angier -- Aristotle Timothy Chappell -- Stoics Jacob Klein -- Aquinas Vivian Boland O.P -- Hume Peter Millican -- Kant Ralph Walker -- Hegel Kenneth Westphal -- Marx Sean Sayers -- Mill Krister Bykvist -- Nietzsche Ken Gemes and Christoph Schuringa -- Macintyre David Solomon.
In his essay On Liberty, John Stuart Mill presents the famous harm principle in the following manner: “[…] the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. […] The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. […] Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.” Hence, there is a (...) distinction between self-regarding and other-regarding acts, and only the latter are subject to moral criticism. However, while all acts are in some way selfregarding, it is not clear if there are any which are exclusively so. There are two additional difficulties. First, the “individual” may not be an individual person; self-determining communities, at least when they have the ability to decide for themselves, are also “individuals” in this sense. Second, it is claimed that groups of acts (activities and practices) have a different kind of justification from single acts. So what are the limits which “others” have in order to protect themselves from what “individuals” (personal or not) do, and what are their rights to do and to protect? If, in the final analysis, protection or defense is a source of justification, what should or must be protected, and why? Where does the demarcation line between self-regarding and other-regarding acts lie? In our age, as in Mill’s, we encounter many situations where such a line is needed, yet is hard to determine or establish. One such example, the case of same-sex marriages, is further explored in this paper. (shrink)
Communitarians have argued against Millian individualism (ethical liberalism) by claiming that it leads to the compartmentalization of life, and thus inhibits virtue, that it causes alienation, and leads to what I call the problem of choice. Ethical liberals celebrate the free choice of a conception of the good life, but communitarians respond by posing a dilemma. Either the choice is made in reference to some given standard (a social or natural telos), in which case it is not free, or it (...) is made without reference to a standard, in which case it is arbitrary. This entails either ethical liberalism is false or it reduces to existentialism. I tackle each of these arguments in turn, showing that alienation is not any more of problem in liberal than in communitarian societies, and explain how virtues can fit between compartments in our lives. Regarding the problem of choice, I show that communitarians have assumed that justification must have a foundationalist structure. I show instead how a coherentist structure can allow for a person to begin with unchosen ends or with unchosen standards, but eventually arrive at a structure of ends (which constitute a vision of the good life) that is both freely chosen and rationally justified. This vindicates Millian individualism. (shrink)
In her valuable book Hiding from humanity: Disgust, shame and the law, Nussbaum says that she reaches many of the same practical conclusions as Mill. But she argues that Mill’s conceptions of liberty, justice, and respect for rival ideas of the good and for religious belief, are defective, and further that they do not provide as adequate a basis for the form of political liberalism she recommends. Actually, the alleged defects in Mill rest largely on misrepresentations, but more importantly, once (...) one understands the central role of Mill’s account of justice in shaping his view of liberty and morality, it becomes clear that he offers a better response to cultural pluralism. His way of relating the morality and the aesthetics of conduct embodies a kind of respect for diversity both deeper and more realistic than that claimed for political liberalism. Mill brings a heritage from the Enlightenment in the light of which political liberalism looks like a failure of nerve. (shrink)
Revisionist interpretation of Mill needs to be extended to deal with a residue of puzzles about his moral theory and its connection with his theory of liberty. The upshot shows his reinterpretation of his Benthamite tradition as a form of ‘philosophical utilitarianism’; his definition of the art of morality as collective self-defence; his ignoring of maximization in favour of ad hoc dealing in utilities; the central role of his account of the justice of punishment; the marginal role of the internal (...) sanction in his criterion of moral wrong; his deep respect for common-sense morality; and his restriction of the scope of morality so as to claim for the utilitarian tradition the whole realm of the aesthetics of conduct as part of a general theory of practical reason. (shrink)
In mill the principle of utility does not ascribe rightness or wrongness to anything. It governs not just morality but the whole art of life. It says that happiness is the only thing desirable as an end. But the meaning of this formulation is problematic, Since mill's theory of practical reason conceives this desirability as an end as generating reasons for action for all agents in a way implying impartiality between self and others, Whereas in the ordinary sense it does (...) not. This interpretation is supported by detailed textual analysis. (shrink)