This interview with Charles Taylor explores a central concern throughout his work, viz., his concern to confront the challenges presented by the process of ‘disenchantment’ in the modern world. It focuses especially on what is involved in seeking a kind of ‘re-enchantment.' A key issue that is discussed is the relationship of Taylor’s theism to his effort of seeking re-enchantment. Some other related issues that are explored pertain to questions surrounding Taylor’s argument against the standard secularization thesis (...) that views secularization as a process involving the ineluctable fading away of religion. Additionally, the relationship between Taylor’s religious views and his philosophical work is discussed. (shrink)
Mr Burston's introduction relates the two pieces to Mill's general intellectual and philosophical position, and to the historical context in which he wrote. Notes explain allusions in the text, and there is a bibliography.
Bentham.--Coleridge.--M. de Tocqueville on democracy in America.--On liberty.--Utilitarianism.--From Considerations on representative government.--From An examination of Sir William Hamilton's philosophy, volume 1.--From Three essays on religion.--John Stuart Mill, a select bibliography (p. -530).
This is the first comprehensive evaluation of Charles Taylor's work and a major contribution to leading questions in philosophy and the human sciences as they face an increasingly pluralistic age. Charles Taylor is one of the most influential contemporary moral and political philosophers: in an era of specialisation he is one of the few thinkers who has developed a comprehensive philosophy which speaks to the conditions of the modern world in a way that is compelling to specialists in (...) various disciplines. This collection of specially commissioned essays brings together twelve distinguished scholars from a variety of fields to discuss critically Taylor's work. The topics range from the history of philosophy, to truth, modernity and postmodernity, theism, interpretation, the human sciences, liberalism, pluralism and difference. Taylor responds to all the contributions and re-articulates his own views. (shrink)
Thomas Taylor in England, by K. Raine.--Thomas Taylor in America, by G. M. Harper.--Biographical accounts of Thomas Taylor.--Concerning the beautiful.--The hymns of Orpheus.--Concerning the cave of the nymphs.--A dissertation on the Eleusinian and Bacchic mysteries.--Introduction to The fable of Cupid and Psyche.--The Platonic philosopher's creed.--An apology for the fables of Homer.--Bibliography (p. -538).
Although there is no more iconic, stalwart, and eloquent defender of liberty and representative democracy than J.S. Mill, he sometimes endorses non-democratic forms of governance. This article explains the reasons behind this seeming aberration and shows that Mill actually has complex and nuanced views of the transition from non-democratic to democratic government, including the comprehensive and parallel material, cultural, institutional, and character reforms that must occur, and the mechanism by which they will be enacted. Namely, an enlightened despot (...) must cultivate democratic virtues such as obedience, industriousness, spirit of nationality, and resistance to tyranny in the population and simultaneously prepare the way for his own demise and secure his own legitimacy by transitioning to the rule of law. This challenges recent scholarship that paints Mill’s non-democratic views as crudely and uncritically imperialist, because it fails to recognize and engage seriously with his sophisticated (if ultimately problematic) theory of individual and institutional development under enlightened colonialism. (shrink)
: This essay considers the important role attributed to education in the writings of nineteenth-century feminist HarrietTaylorMill. TaylorMill connected ignorance to inequality between the sexes. She called up the specter of regression into lowness and ignorance when she associated feminism with progress. As she stressed the importance of education, she constructed an 'other' to feminism, variously associated with lowness, poverty, and the primitive. She made a case for the advantages of civilization (education, (...) enfranchisement, equality) to be opened up to women. Yet TaylorMill's position that the ignorant poor, like all humans, should be in a position of so-called "perfect equality" drifted intermittently into the view that the elevation of women to perfect equality would refine and elevate the lower classes. (shrink)
A liberal antinomy of parenting exists: strong liberal intuitions militate in favor of both denying special resources to parenting projects (on grounds of project-neutrality) and granting them (on grounds of respect for personhood). I show that we can reconcile these two claims by rejecting a premise common to both--viz. that liberalism is necessarily committed to extensive procreative liberties--and limiting procreation and subsequent parenting to adults who meet certain psychological and especially financial criteria. I also defend this argument, which provides a (...) Kantian complement to utilitarian arguments for restricting procreation, against a variety of objections. (shrink)
A combination of social forces has thrown marriage into question in westernised societies at the end of the millennium. This uncertainty creates space for new ways of thinking about marriage. In this context, we examine the idea of marriage as friendship. We trace its genealogy in the work of Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill and HarrietTaylor and then subject it to critical scrutiny using some of Michel de Montaigne’s ideas. We ask how applic- able the ideal (...) of higher friendship is to marriage and what might be gained and lost by a synthesis of marriage and friendship. Grounding the discussion in historical sources is valuable because the topic is so little explored in the contemporary philosophical literature. This approach also allows any enduring value in these historical texts to be elicited. (shrink)
Bruce Kinzer offers a rich examination of personal and political themes in the life of the most influential liberal thinker of the nineteenth century. He investigates young Mill’s formative period and his relations with his father, HarrietTaylor, and Thomas Carlyle. He explore issues that bear upon our understanding of Mill as an engaged political thinker and actor. Kinzer offers a complex portrait of Mill's life and politics.
In this paper, I examine how philosophers before and after G. E. Moore understood intrinsic value. The main idea I wish to bring out and defend is that Moore was insufficiently attentive to how distinctive his conception of intrinsic value was, as compared with those of the writers he discussed, and that such inattentiveness skewed his understanding of the positions of others that he discussed and dismissed. My way into this issue is by examining the charge of inconsistency that Moore (...) levels at the qualitative hedonism outlined by J. S. Mill in Utilitarianism. Along the way I suggest that there are a number of ways in which Moore was unfair in rejecting qualitative hedonism as inconsistent. I close by relating the issues that arise in discussion of Moore to contemporary debates on value and reasons. (shrink)
Critics have charged that John Stuart Mill''s discussion as of paternalism in On Liberty is internally inconsistent, noting, for example, the numerous instances in which Mill explicitly endorses examples of paternalistic coercion. Similarly, commentators have noted an apparent contradiction between Mill''s political liberalism – according to which the state should be neutral among competing conceptions of the good – and Mill''s condemnation of non-autonomous ways of life, such as that of a servile wife. More generally, critics (...) have argued that while Mill professes an allegiance to utilitarianism, he actually abandons it in favor of a view that values personal autonomy as the greatest intrinsic good. This paper presents an interpretation of Mill that provides a viable and consistent treatment of paternalism, thereby refuting each of the aforementioned critiques. Mill''s views, it argues, are consistently utilitarian. Moreover, the interpretation accounts for all of Mill''s departures from his otherwise blanket prohibition of paternalistic legislation. In particular, it explains his most notorious example, the condemnation of voluntary contracts for slavery. The interpretation emphasizes Mill''s conceptual linkage between autonomy and utility, noting his implicit use of at least three different senses of the notion of autonomy. (shrink)
Leibniz's mill argument in 'Monadology' 17 is a well-known but puzzling argument against materialism about the mind. I approach the mill argument by considering other places where Leibniz gave similar arguments, using the same example of the machinery of a mill and reaching the same anti-materialist conclusion. In a 1702 letter to Bayle, Leibniz gave a mill argument that moves from his definition of perception (as the expression of a multitude by a simple) to the anti-materialist (...) conclusion. Soon afterwards, in the Preface to the New Essays, Leibniz gave a different mill argument. That argument depends upon there being no arbitrary and inexplicable connections in nature, because God would not create such things. Later, in the 'Monadology', Leibniz again used the mill example in arguing against materialism. That passage too, I argue, uses an argument from inexplicability rather than from Leibniz's definition of perception. (shrink)
I argue that Mill introduced the distinction between quality and quantity of pleasures in order to fend off the then common charge that utilitarianism is ‘a philosophy for swine’ and to accommodate the (still) widespread intuition that the life of a human is better, in the sense of being intrinsically more valuable, than the life of an animal. I argue that in this he fails because in order to do successfully he would have to show not only that the (...) life of a human is preferable to that of an animal on hedonistic grounds, but also that it is in some sense nobler or more dignified to be a human, which he cannot do without tacitly presupposing non-hedonistic standards of what it means to lead a good life. (shrink)
In On Liberty, Mill famously propounded a view of the good life as the autonomous life. On this view, it is crucial that people develop and exercise, to a high degree, their ability to reason independently about what to believe and what to aim at in life. It is also important that they be able to freely hold and express their beliefs and effectively act on their aims. As Mill put it: The mental and the moral, like the (...) muscular, powers are improved only by being used. ... He who lets the world ... choose his plan of life for him has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan of life for himself ... must use observation to see, reasoning and judgment to foresee, activity to gather materials for decision, discrimination to decide, and when he has decided, firmness and self-control to hold his deliberate decision. And these qualities he requires and exercises exactly in proportion as the part of his conduct which he determines according to his own judgment and feelings.... It is possible that he may be guided in some good path ... without any of these things. But what will be his comparative worth as a human being? (p. 56). Two of Mill’s arguments for familiar liberal rights—which include children’s right to a decent education, freedom of conscience, freedom of expression, and freedom of association— appeal to this ideal of autonomy. First, these rights are generally crucial for establishing the conditions under which people can freely make up their own minds about what to believe and how to live, and to act accordingly. Second, a society that respected these rights would, Mill thought, be more likely to have a vibrant public culture, in which divergent opinions and lifestyles lead to a ‘generally high scale of mental activity’, which together ‘raise even persons of the most ordinary intellect to something of the dignity of thinking beings’ (p. 33). (shrink)
I argue for a perfectionist reading of Mill’s account of the good life, by using the failures of development recorded in his Autobiography as a way to understand his official account of happiness in Utilitarianism. This work offers both a new perspective on Mill’s thought, and a distinctive account of the role of aesthetic and emotional capacities in the most choiceworthy human life. I consider the philosophical purposes of autobiography, Mill’s disagreements with Bentham, and the nature of (...) competent judges and the pleasure they take in higher culture. I conclude that Millian perfectionism is an attractive and underappreciated option for contemporary value theory. (shrink)
This review article outlines some of the major contributions made to political theory by Charles Taylor. It focuses on his relationship to liberalism, his contribution to the understanding of democracy and his analysis of the politics of recognition. Several lines of critique of Taylor's thought on these issues are also explored. Some reflections on Taylor's style of theorising about politics are offered, and the question of whether he is a conservative or critical theorist is examined.
In this article, using the recent work by Charles Taylor in A Secular Age as my point of departure, I will argue that Jean-Luc Nancy enables us to think past the competing binary of atheistic and religious experience and allows us to surpass the present narratives of secularism. In A Secular Age, Taylor himself seeks a middle ground between atheism and religion, arguing that it is possible to open ourselves to the cross-pressures of modern existence that find us (...) caught between scientific atheism and a need for spiritual and religious guidance. Here, Taylor finds a way of picturing ourselves within a secular age, remaining faithful to scientific rationalism, but still open to religion and a sense of a higher good. However, as I shall demonstrate, in his thesis Taylor misrepresents the Continental philosophical tradition (particularly Nietzsche and post-structuralism) that has itself sought to understand these cross-pressures of existence. Taking this misrepresentation, and specifically his reductive and colloquial analysis of Nietzsche, Camus, and Derrida, as my point of departure, I provide an alternative manner of thinking through the work of these writers, one that leads to a detailed analysis of Jean-Luc Nancy and his project the deconstruction of Christianity. In this analysis I argue that Nancy provides a manner of thinking that remains open and allows an experience of freedom, without seeking to close that sense of openness with explanation, nor maintaining that sense of openness with a conception of the divine. (shrink)
This work is not a specific assessment of Utility of Religion by John Stuart Mill, but a defence of what I think is a utilitarian, but not millian, view on the problem that work states, the question of the utility of religion in contemporary societies. I construct that view from neohumeanism more than from millian positions, notwithstanding, I postulate that view as a genuine utilitarian one. -/- Every cultural tradition makes a different approach to ethical and political theories. Spanish (...) and Ibero-American utilitarians make precisely it with Classical Utilitarianism. -/- From that point of view, Ibero-American people identifies utilitarianism with radical and enlightened tradition linked with the reform that through XVIIIth and XIXth centuries tried to undermine the foundations of conservative society in our nations. -/- This aim was not achieved, at least not completely; because of that, the pursuit of Utilitarianism remains opened between us. In the end, I will argue that Spanish and Ibero-American utilitarians connect utilitarianism with philosophical and political radicalism, and inside that Hispanic utilitarianism, plays an important role the criticism of social and political functions of Religion. -/- Maybe, part of the future of Utilitarianism in our cultural context depends on a return of the Theory to its radical roots, also in religious subjects. (shrink)
This chapter briefly reviews the link between Charles Taylor's life and work. It then discusses his position on the role of science in understanding human behavior. It concludes by considering the relationship between theory and practice in Taylor's thought.
This chapter addresses the question of what role Mill regards rules as playing in the determination of morally permissible action by drawing on his remarks about instrumentally rational action. First, overviews are provided of consequentialist theories and of the rule-worship or incoherence objection to rule-consequentialist theories. Then a summary is offered of the considerable textual evidence suggesting that Mill’s moral theory is, in fact, a rule-consequentialist one. It is argued, however, that passages in the final chapter of A (...) System of Logic suggest that Mill anticipates and endorses the ruleworship or incoherence objection to rule-consequentialist theories. The chapter concludes by exploring some ways in which this tension in Mill’s thought might be resolved. (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) -/- John Stuart Mill in 19th Century Philosophy Justice, Misc in Social and Political Philosophy. (shrink)
The characters in this epistolary exchange are from the book-length dialogue Sentience and Sensibility: A Conversation about Moral Philosophy. Manuel Kant is a student of philosophy from Cuba and Northern India, who is in the United States seeking what he calls “philosophical asylum.” His interlocutor, HarrietTaylor, is a former student of philosophy and biology, now working for the Immigration and Naturalization Service in Boston. In this exchange, they make and try to reconcile cases for and against the (...) conceptual coherence and efficacy of equality as a moral concept, leaving it to the reader to settle the question. (shrink)
This essay argues, flouting paradox, that Mill was a utilitarian but not a consequentialist. First, it contends that there is logical space for a view that deserves to be called utilitarian despite its rejection of consequentialism; second, that this logical space is, in fact, occupied by John Stuart Mill. The key to understanding Mill's unorthodox utilitarianism and the role it plays in his moral philosophy is to appreciate his sentimentalist metaethics—especially his account of wrongness in terms of (...) fitting guilt and resentment. Mill recognizes a fundamental moral asymmetry between the agent and others, which conflicts intractably with a presupposition of consequentialism. This allows him to differentiate three potentially conflicting evaluative spheres: morality, prudence, and aesthetics. This essay's account of Mill's utilitarianism coheres with his defense of individual liberty and his embrace of supererogation, both of which elude traditional interpretations. (shrink)
In this chapter I discuss Charles Taylor's and Paul Ricoeur's theories of narrative identity and narratives as a central form of self-interpretation.1 Both Taylor and Ricoeur think that self-identity is a matter of culturally and socially mediated self-definitions, which are practically relevant for one's orientation in life.2 First, I will go through various characterisations that Ricoeur gives of his theory, and try to show to what extent they also apply to Taylor's theory. Then, I will analyse more (...) closely Charles Taylor's, and in section three, Paul Ricoeur's views on narrative identity. (shrink)
Charles Taylor and Michel Foucault offer two very different descriptions and analyses of modern identities. While it can be argued that Taylor and Foucault are thematizing two very different aspects of identity — Taylor is focusing on first-person, subjective, affirmed identity, and Foucault is focusing on third-person, or ascribed, category identity — in practice, these two are very much intertwined. I argue that attention to identities of race, gender, class and sexual orientation demands that we combine a (...) Foucauldian power analysis with a Taylorean understanding of authenticity. Taking Nancy Fraser's and Linda Gordon's example of the `single black mother on welfare' as the `icon of dependency' in America and Charles Taylor's example of the `householder' who understands himself in relation to an ideal of independence, I show that neither individual can develop either self-knowledge or freedom without engaging in a quest for authenticity that involves both analysis of relations of power and identification with resistant identities. This requires moving beyond both Taylor and Foucault to an understanding of identity in terms of critical relations with defining communities. Key Words: authenticity • critique • Michel Foucault • freedom • identity • meaning • power • self-knowledge • social being • Charles Taylor. (shrink)
In this paper I want to do two things. One concerns Mill’s attitude to public indecency. In On Liberty Mill expresses the conventional view that certain actions, if conducted in public, are an affront to good manners, and can properly be prohibited. I want to come to an understanding of Mill’s position so that it allows him to defend this part of conventional morality, but does not disrupt certain of his liberal convictions: principally the conviction that what (...) consenting adults do in private is no-one ‘s concern but their own. The difficulty is to find an argument that Mill could have used to defend the position that some things which, though acceptable in private, can rightly be stopped if attempted in public. The other thing I want to do is consider the impact of Mill’s view of indecency on the interpretation of the Liberty Principle. There remain difficulties here which, to my knowledge, have not been adequately explored. So I want to look at a range of interpretative alternatives. In the first part of the paper I shall raise and explore the issue of the interpretative problems. In the second part I shall look at some ways of trying to justify Mill’s view of indecency on characteristically Millian grounds. And in the final part I shall explore the somewhat surprising consequences of the discussion of the second part for the interpretative questions raised in the first. (shrink)
This paper is a reply to Jonathan Riley’s criticism of my reading of Mill (both published in the Philosophical Quarterly 2003). I show that Riley’s interpretation has no textual support in Mill’s writing by putting the supposedly supporting quotations in their proper context. Secondly it is demonstrated how my reading is not incompatible with hedonism. Mill’s use of the concepts of ‘quality’, ‘quantity’, and ‘pleasure’ are explained and illustrated. I conclude by considering whether the possible redundancy of (...)Mill’s quality/quantity discussion would be problematic. (shrink)
John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism is one of the most important philosophical works of the nineteenth century. Its advocacy of utilitarianism--the view that individual and political action should be directed at the "greatest happiness"--not only influenced political life, but attracted a great deal of criticism. This is the first book dedicated to the interpretation and critical discussion of this significant work.
Mill's famous proportionality statement of the Greatest Happiness Principle (GHP) is commonly taken to specify his own moral theory. And the discussion in which GHP is embedded -- Chapter 2 of Utilitarianism -- predominates the interpretation of Mill's normative philosophy. Largely because of these suppositions, Mill is traditionally read as a particular kind of utilitarian: a maximizing act-consequentialist. This paper argues that the canonical status accorded to Utilitarianism is belied by the text itself, as well as by (...) its historical context, and that this point largely undermines the orthodox interpretation of Mill. In fact, GHP was intended as the statement of a common creed, acceptable to the diverse class of philosophers Mill counted as utilitarian. Moreover, the discussion of substantive moral theory in Utilitarianism in several respects does not reflect his own view, and the work itself is much less important than it is almost universally taken to be -- though not, it turns out, by Mill himself. (shrink)
Philosophers have tended to dismiss John Stuart Mill’s claim that ‘all silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility’. I argue that Mill’s ‘infallibility claim’ is indeed open to many objections, but that, contrary to the consensus, those objections fail to defeat the anti-authoritarian thesis which lies at its core. I then argue that Mill’s consequentialist case for the liberty of thought and discussion is likewise capable of withstanding some familiar objections. My purpose is to suggest that (...)Mill’s anti-authoritarianism and his faith in thought and discussion, when taken seriously, supply the basis for a ‘public interest’ account of ‘freedom of expression as the liberty of thought and discussion’ which is faithful to Mill in spirit, if not to the precise letter. I outline such an account, which – as I say in conclusion – can serve as a valuable safeguard against ad hoc, reactive legislation, and the demands of a spurious communitarianism. (shrink)
This paper sees Charles Taylor's moral discourse as a version of liberal communitarianism, an attempt to reconcile liberalism and communitarianism, by examining his three transcendental arguments: the liberal transcendence from the parochial to the universal; the communi tarian transcendence from the instinctual to the ontological; and the theistic transcendence from the good to God. While this liberal communi tarianism absorbs some great insights from both liberalism and communi tarianism and overcomes some of their respective weaknesses, it fails to avoid (...) their common dichotomy of the good and the right because Taylor's fundamentally communitarian commitment leads him to believe that there must be a universal ontological (religious or metaphysical) idea of the good as the foundation for any needed universal social and political idea of the right. Key Words: communitarianism - the good - justice - liberalism - the right - Charles Taylor - transcendental arguments. (shrink)
This paper examines Taylor's moral realism in the light of his criticisms of 'our subjectivist civilization'. I argue that his work is valuable in its stress on the link between identity and moral judgement and its picture of human beings as 'strong evaluators', but I dispute that these considerations lead to moral realism if this is taken to include a claim to truth. Specifically, I argue that Taylor's 'Best Account' principle may generate radical inconsistency and his depiction of (...) practical reason does not lead to any hope of convergence. His own theism serves to illustrate these difficulties. Key Words: ethics identity modernity Taylor truth. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that moral realism does not, pace Charles Taylor, need “moral sources” or “constitutive goods”, and adding these concepts distorts the basic insights of what can be called “cultural” moral realism.1 Yet the ideas of “moral topography” or “moral space” as well as the idea of “ontological background pictures” are valid, if separated from those notions. What does Taylor mean by these notions?
Mill's free speech doctrine is distinct from, yet compatible with, his central principle of ‘purely self-regarding’ liberty. Using the crucial analogy with trade, I claim that he defends a broad laissez-faire policy for expression, even though expression is ‘social’ or other-regarding conduct and thus legitimately subject to social regulation. An expedient laissez-faire policy admits of exceptions because speakers can sometimes cause such severe damage to others that coercive interference with the speech is justified. In those relatively few contexts where (...) interference is called for, however, the central principle of self-regarding liberty sets absolute limits to the scope of society's regulatory authority. Regulation can never amount to an outright ban of any type of expression that can be consumed by the individual without direct and immediate harm to others. Nevertheless, and perhaps surprisingly, the central liberty principle admits censorship of certain extraordinary types of expression which necessarily harm others. (shrink)
Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, MA, and London, UK: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), ISBN-13:978-0674- 02676-6; 874pp. This review essay concentrates on Charles Taylor's image of modernity.
While there is much common ground between the writings of Amartya Sen and John Stuart Mill – particularly in their advocacy of freedom and gender equality – one is a critic, while the other is an advocate, of utilitarianism. In spite of this contrast, there are strong echoes of Sen's capability approach in Mill's writings. Inasmuch as Mill sees the capability to be happy as important he holds a form of capability approach. He also thinks of happiness (...) as constituted by the exercise of certain capabilities (including the higher faculties). Furthermore, Mill addresses the possibility that people can adapt to limited opportunity, which is central to Sen's critique of some ‘utility’-based views. By contrasting contentment and happiness Mill suggests one way in which a utilitarian might address cases of adaptation. His discussions of capabilities and of adaptation are consistent with his utilitarianism. (Published Online February 16 2006). (shrink)
I compare Mill's and Sen's accounts of the value of opportunity, focusing on a tension between two ideas they both uphold: that individual freedom is an important component of well-being, and that, because desires can be adaptive, actual desire is not always a good indicator of what will give well-being. The two writers' responses to this tension reflect different understandings of the relationship between freedom and desire. Sen links an individual's well-being to her freedom to choose what she has (...) reason to desire, and looks to a democratic political process for a collective judgement about what it is rational to desire. Mill links the individual's well-being to her freedom to act on her own desires, whatever they may be, within the constraints imposed by a fair initial distribution of resources. He sees no need for collective judgement about what is ultimately valuable in human life. I side with Mill. (Published Online February 16 2006). (shrink)
Auguste Comte (1798–1857) is the founder of positivism, a philosophical and political movement which enjoyed a very wide diffusion in the second half of the nineteenth century. It sank into an almost complete oblivion during the twentieth, when it was eclipsed by neopositivism. However, Comte's decision to develop successively a philosophy of mathematics, a philosophy of physics, a philosophy of chemistry and a philosophy of biology, makes him the first philosopher of science in the modern sense, and his constant attention (...) to the social dimension of science resonates in many respects with current points of view. His political philosophy, on the other hand, is even less known, because it differs substantially from the classical political philosophy we have inherited. Comte's most important works are (1) the Course on Positive Philosophy (1830-1842, six volumes, translated and condensed by Harriet Martineau as The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte); (2) the System of Positive Polity, or Treatise on Sociology, Instituting the Religion of Humanity, (1851-1854, four volumes); and (3) the Early Writings (1820-1829), where one can see the influence of Saint-Simon, for whom Comte served as secretary from 1817 to 1824. The Early Writings are still the best introduction to Comte's thought. In the Course, Comte said, science was transformed into philosophy; in the System, philosophy was transformed into religion. The second transformation met with strong opposition; as a result, it has become customary to distinguish, with Mill, between a “good Comte” (the author of the Course) and a “bad Comte” (the author of the System). Today's common conception of positivism corresponds mainly to what can be found in the Course. (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)
Utilitarianism and its principal architect, John Stuart Mill, are staples of media ethics teaching and analysis. However, utilitarianism, in its usual presentation, is offered as a simplistic arithmetic formula: Do the greatest good for the greatest number. This quantification approach, when attached to Mill, misinterprets this philosopher and robs media ethics discussions of the rich reflection that an important classical theory can bring. Mill is a particularly suitable philosopher for presentation to students of journalism and mass communication. (...)Mill provides a strong argument in favor of freedom of expression in addition to espousing a moral theory that is simultaneously protective of individual rights while promoting communitarian principles. But it is imperative to get Mill right. This essay attempts to do so and to offer a utilitarian decision tree for those who wish to properly apply Mill's theory in teaching and practice. (shrink)
Nonintervention has been a particularly important and occasionally disturbing principle for liberal scholars, such as John Stuart Mill and Michael Walzer, who share a commitment to basic and universal human rights. On the one hand, liberals have provided some of the strongest reasons to abide by a strict form of the nonintervention doctrine. It was only with the security of national borders that peoples could work out the capacity to govern themselves as free citizens. On the other hand, those (...) very same principles of universal human dignity when applied in different contexts have provided justifications for overriding or disregarding the principle of nonintervention. In explaining this dual logic I present an interpretive summary of Mill's famous argument against and for intervention, presented in his "A Few Words on Non-Intervention" (1859), that illustrates what makes Mill's "few words" both so attractive and alarming to us. We should be drawn to Mill's arguments because he is among the first to address the conundrums of modern intervention. The modern conscience tries simultaneously to adhere to three contradictory principles: first, the cosmopolitan, humanitarian commitment to assistance, irrespective of international borders; second, respect for the significance of communitarian, national self-determination; and, third, accommodation to the reality of international anarchy, which puts a premium on self-help national security. I stress, more than has been conventional, the consequentialist character of the ethics of both nonintervention and intervention. Comparing Mill's "Non-Intervention" and Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars (1977) links two classic statements on just wars of intervention. I conclude that interventionist arguments should go beyond the three paradigmatic cases Walzer explores in Just and Unjust Wars . But while they can draw on Mill's "Non-Intervention," they need to offer a more convincing set of criteria for when such interventions are likely to do more good than harm. (shrink)
This volume collects David Lyons' well-known essays on Mill's moral theory and includes an introduction which relates the essays to prior and subsequent philosophical developments. Like the author's Forms and Limits of Utilitarianism (Oxford, 1965), the essays apply analytical methods to issues in normative ethics. The first essay defends a refined version of the beneficiary theory of rights against H.L.A. Hart's important criticisms. The central set of essays develops new interpretations of Mill's moral theory with the aim of (...) determining how far rights can be incorporated in a utilitarian framework. They Mill's analysis of moral concepts promises to accommodate the argumentative force of rights, and also provide a significant new reading of Mill's theory of liberty. The last essay argues that the promise of Mill's theory of justice cannot be fulfilled. Utilitarianism is unable to account for crucial features of moral rights, or even for the moral force of legal rights whose existence might be justified on utilitarian grounds. (shrink)
I offer an interpretation of John Stuart Mill's theory of higher and lower pleasures in his Utilitarianism. I argue that the quality of pleasure is best understood as the density of pleasure per unit of delivery. Mill is illustrated with numerous beer examples.
In this paper, I argue against the standard interpretation of Mill as a hedonistic utilitarian, and argue instead that Mill holds a 'eudaimonic' conception of happiness. I begin by clarifying exactly what I mean by a eudaimonic conception of happiness, and then examine the textual evidence for this eudaimonic interpretation, as well as the evidence against the standard hedonistic interpretation. Naturally, a great deal of the paper will revolve around an analysis of Mill's Utilitarianism , but special (...) attention will also be paid to On Liberty , reading it as a development of Mill's moral theory rather than a mere application of it. (shrink)
This article is a systematic repudiation of Joseph Hamburger's thesis in his book John Stuart Mill on Liberty And Control . Hamburger maintains that Mill wanted to promote the `moral regeneration of mankind' by eroding Christian belief and replacing it with a religion of humanity. He argues that Mill's defense of liberty must be seen in this context, although Mill himself tried to conceal some of his views. Mill in fact permitted interference even in the (...) area of self-regarding conduct. He was against interference by public opinion, but not against interference by superior persons. Mill valued freedom because it enabled superior persons to promote the desired progress toward the religion of humanity. But this article argues that Hamburger fails to distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate forms of interference, a distinction that is central to Mill's case for liberty. Superior persons are not allowed to coerce others from engaging in non-harmful but `miserable' conduct. The progress that Mill envisaged was to be achieved within the framework of freedom for all. Key Words: liberty social control self-regarding conduct Christianity religion of humanity public opinion. (shrink)
Against Schmidt-Petri's claim, I argue that John Stuart Mill is committed to the view that one pleasure is higher in quality than another if and only if at least a majority of those people who are competently acquainted with both always prefer the one no matter how much of the other is offered. I support my reading with solid textual evidence; none such is provided by Schmidt-Petri in support of his contrary interpretation that qualitative superiority exists whenever the experienced (...) prefer less of one pleasure to more of another. The decisive objection to this is its incompatibility with the hedonistic requirement that more pleasure ought to be preferred to less, a requirement so fundamental that it would be uncharitable to suppose that Mill lost sight of it in his doctrine of higher pleasures. (shrink)
Many solutions of the Goodman paradox have been proposed but so far no agreement has been reached about which is the correct solution. However, I will not contribute here to the discussion with a new solution. Rather, I will argue that a solution has been in front of us for more than two hundred years because a careful reading of Hume’s account of inductive inferences shows that, contrary to Goodman’s opinion, it embodies a correct solution of the paradox. Moreover, the (...) account even includes a correct answer to Mill’s question of why in some cases a single instance is sufficient for a complete induction, since Hume gives a well-supported explanation of this reliability phenomenon. The discussion also suggests that Bayesian theory by itself cannot explain this phenomenon. Finally, we will see that Hume’s explanation of the reliability phenomenon is surprisingly similar to the explanation given lately by a number of naturalistic philosophers in their discussion of the Goodman paradox. (shrink)
A well known paragraph in Mill’s ‘Utilitarianism’ has standardly been misread. Mill does not claim that if some pleasure is of ‘higher quality’, then it will be (or ought to be) chosen over the pleasure of lower quality regardless of their respective quantities. Instead he says that if some pleasure will be chosen over another available in larger quantity, then we are justified in saying that the pleasure so chosen is of higher quality than the other. This assertion (...) is unproblematic. (shrink)
D.G. Brown’s revisionist interpretation, despite its interest, misrepresents Mill’s moral theory as outlined in Utilitarianism . Mill’s utilitarianism is extraordinary because it explicitly aims to maximize general happiness both in point of quality and quantity. It encompasses spheres of life beyond morality, and its structure cannot be understood without clarification of his much-maligned doctrine that some kinds of pleasant feelings are qualitatively superior to others irrespective of quantity. This doctrine of higher pleasures establishes an order of precedence among (...) conflicting kinds of enjoyments, including moral as well as non-moral kinds. In particular, as he indicates in Utilitarianism , Chapter V, the higher kind of pleasure associated with the moral sentiment of justice, namely, a feeling of ‘security’ for vital personal concerns that everyone has and that ought to be recognized as equal rights, is qualitatively superior to any competing kinds of pleasures regardless of quantity. Justice (more generally, morality) is conceived as a social system of rules and dispositions which has as its ultimate end the maximization of this pleasant feeling of security for everyone. The upshot is that an optimal social code that distributes and sanctions particular equal rights and correlative duties has absolute priority over competing considerations within his utilitarianism. The code seeks to prevent conduct that, in the judgment of suitably competent majorities, causes grievous kinds of harm to other people by injuring their vital personal concerns. To prevent the acts and omissions which are judged to cause such undue harm, the code assigns equal duties not to perform them, and authorizes due punishment of anyone who fails to fulfill his duties. Punishment is always expedient to condemn and deter wrongdoing. But it is properly a separate issue which particular ways of inflicting punishment are expedient in any particular situation. Given that feelings of guilt are a way of inflicting punishment, coercion is not necessary for punishment. Thus, Mill’s claim that wrongdoing always deserves to be punished in some way does not imply that coercive legal sanctions and public stigma are always expedient for the enforcement of moral duties. (shrink)
This paper considers the converse of the principle that ought implies can, namely, the principle that must implies ought. It argues that this principle is the central premiss for Mill's argument that happiness is desirable (worthy of desire), and it examines the sense of must that is relevant and the implications it has for Mill's moral philosophy.
It is argued that the moral theory undergirding J.S. Mill''s argumentin On Liberty is a species of perfectionism rather than any kind of utilitarianism. The conception of human flourishing that itinvokes is one in which the goods of personal autonomy and individualityare central. If this conception is to be more than the expression ofa particular cultural ideal it needs the support of an empiricallyplausible view of human nature and a defensible interpretation ofhistory. Neither of these can be found in (...)Mill. Six traditionalcriticisms of Mill''s argument are assessed. It is concluded thatin addition to depending on implausible claims about human natureand history Mill''s conception of the good contains disablingincommensurabilities. It is argued that these difficulties andincommensurabilities plague later liberal thinkers such as IsaiahBerlin and Joseph Raz who have sought to ground liberalism in avalue-pluralist ethical theory. No thinker in Mill''s liberal posterity has been able to demonstrate the universal authority of liberal ideals. (shrink)
I will argue that Mill used the concepts tendency and intention as technical terms a proper understanding of which is vital in interpreting his moral philosophy. I examine two interpretations of tendency, offered by Brian Cupples and Fred Berger, and proceed to show weaknesses in both. I will also sketch an interpretation of my own in which tendencies have an important place in Mill's understanding of not only science but moral philosophy as well. I will then show how (...) my interpretation of tendency can help in understanding Mill's foreseeable consequences utilitarianism that relies heavily on Mill's unorthodox use of the notion of intention. (shrink)
John Stuart Mill's best-known work is On Liberty (1859). In it he declared that Western society was in danger of coming to a standstill. This was an extraordinarily pessimistic claim in view of Britain's global dominance at the time and one that has been insufficiently investigated in the secondary literature. The wanting model was that of China, a once advanced civilization that had apparently ossified. To understand how Mill came to this conclusion requires one to investigate his notion (...) of the stages from barbarism to civilization, and also his belief in imperialism as part of the civilizing process. Here India plays a central role, as both Mill and his father worked for the East India Company. This study, then, investigates the relationship between Mill's liberalism and his justification of imperialism. It takes us into the Utilitarianism of his family background, and such other influences as Romanticism, Scottish political economy and such key French thinkers as Saint-Simon, Guizot, Comte and Tocqueville. Mill, then, provides the focus of a debate on the origins, meaning, and consequences of Western civilization. It encompasses discourses on colonialism and orientalism, on Enlightenment optimism and conservative despair, on the need for leadership and the advance of democracy; in short, on the blessings, curses and dangers of modernization from approximately the time of the American and French revolutions to that of the so-called mid-Victorian calm in which On Liberty was written. Furthermore, current political issues concerning the West and Islamic countries have heightened interest in just the kind of question that this book discusses: that of how the West relates to, and assesses, the rest of the world. (shrink)