Utilitas 33 (4):442-457 (2021)

Joshua Isaac Fox
University of Chicago
Mill defines utilitarianism as the combination of a “theory of life” and a moral claim: only pleasure and freedom from pain are desirable as ends, and the promotion of happiness is the sole goal of moral action. So defined, utilitarianism is open to ad hominem pessimistic objection: a “theory of life” which entails the impossibility of happiness fits poorly with a morality centered on its promotion. The first two challenges Mill confronts in Utilitarianism share this pessimistic structure. Interestingly, however, these challenges paint inverted pictures of the best utilitarian life: one suggests this life is satisfying but ignoble, the other that it is noble but unsatisfying. I explain Mill's treatment of both challenges as genuinely pessimistic interpretations of utilitarianism's “theory of life.” Read through the lens of Mill's engagement with pessimism, these challenges point to distinctive conceptions of dignity and satisfaction that play a significant role in Mill's ethics.
Keywords Mill  Pessimism  Happiness  Dignity  Satisfaction
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References found in this work BETA

Mill’s Progressive Principles.David O. Brink - 2013 - Oxford University Press UK.
The Truth Is Terrible.Brian Leiter - 2018 - Journal of Nietzsche Studies 49 (2):151.
Collected Works.John Stuart Mill - 1963 - [Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

The Freedom-Based Critique of Well-Being’s Exclusive Moral Claim.Joshua Fox - 2021 - Journal of Human Development and Capabilities 22 (4):647-662.

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