How Adequate Is Mill’s Conception of Happiness? How Good Are His Arguments to Show That “Higher” Pleasures Are Intrinsically More Desirable Than “Lower” Ones? Is This Distinction Consistent with the Thesis That Pleasure
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How adequate is Mill’s conception of happiness? How good are his arguments to show that “higher” pleasures are intrinsically more desirable than “lower” ones? Is this distinction consistent with the thesis that pleasure is the only thing of value?
In “Utilitarianism” Mill argues that ‘higher’ pleasures are intrinsically more valuable than ‘lower’ pleasures, citing the invariable preference of men who have access to both available (pp.140). I am inclined to disagree, particularly with regards to his assertion that ‘higher’ pleasures have such a “superiority of quality”(pp.139), so as to render any quantity of ‘lower’ pleasures “in comparison, of small account”- this non-cardinal view of pleasure raises many discontinuities. This is…show more content… In Mill’s favour is the seemingly fundamental difference between human and animal pleasures, and ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ pleasures as an extension of this. He draws our attention to this with his assertion that we would prefer to be a “human being unsatisfied than a pig satisfied” (pp.140). This seems similar to earlier comparisons, but there is an important distinction. Mill highlights that anyone who doesn’t believe there are intrinsically more desirable higher pleasures is forced to concede it would be better to live as a beast. ‘Higher’ pleasures are an embodiment of our higher faculties and I believe that our enjoyment of these is an important marker of what makes us human. Which animal enjoys solving mathematics? Thus, as far as the distinction between human and animal pleasures, Mill’s claim seems reasonable.
Another strength of Mill’s argument is his choice of words surrounding the ‘lower’ pleasures. We are told of a “satisfied” pig, and a “content” fool (pp.139-140). These sound like oxymoron, but also remind us of the much higher capacity for enjoyment of more intelligent people. A fool is easily contented, for he can easily exhaust the pleasure sources available to him. For the intelligent man or woman, the myriad of options available to them ensures they can never be lazily “content”.
In addition, Mill’s views surrounding the ‘higher’ pleasures cannot be
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