The ins and outs of virtue and vice

Richard Davis
Marquette University (PhD)
According to the nineteenth century English philosopher John Stuart Mill, all human beings desire to live lives pregnant with happiness; we all long to be the recipients of liberal amounts of varied, high quality pleasures with pain making as brief an appearance in our conscious experience as possible. Happiness is the one and only thing we desire for its own sake; everything else is desirable simply as a means to securing happiness. Perhaps this is so. Mill, however, went on to argue that promoting happiness of this sort is not only desirable, it is in fact a moral obligation on our part. Suppose that on some delicious fall evening you are contemplating whether to pick up Dickens' David Copperfield and read a chapter or two. Well, given the alternatives before you, if reading Dickens would result in the greatest amount of happiness, not only for yourself but also for all those affected by your solitary, bookish reverie, then you can be sure your action is morally right and indeed obligatory.
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