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
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…
1. We may simply prefer a diversity of pleasures. The intelligent man has access to physical pleasures as well as those of the higher faculties. Even if both are equally enjoyable, it is reasonable to prefer the possibility of both in exchange for a slightly lower level of ‘contentment’.
2. Tellingly, in one of a series of comparisons used to highlight our intuitive respect and desire for a consciousness that has can employ the higher faculties, Mill compares “Socrates”, and a “fool” (pp.140). The fact that Mill even knows of Socrates, more than 2,000 years after his death suggests one reason why we may wish to chose the intelligent man over the fool- society as a whole respects these men and women, and they leave a far greater impact on history. Apart from the ‘higher’ pleasures available to the intelligent, there are other reasons that may lead us to choose their lifestyle, such as historic recognition.
3. There is nothing in this argument to suggest that ‘higher’ pleasures are better in kind- that our preference for them is not simply a matter of degree. Higher pleasures may be more pleasurable than ‘lower’ ones, but this is not necessarily enough