Dialogue

Articles

Mill on Liberty of Self-Development

Wendy Donnera1

a1 University of Regina

John Stuart Mill's commitment to liberty and individual development is one of the most exoteric themes of his moral and political philosophy. But the linkages between this commitment to liberty and development and Mill's conception of utility and principles of the good are not as commonly recognized. As part of a more general transformation of his utilitarianism, Mill repudiated Bentham's principles of the good and instead adopted a more sophisticated form of hedonism. While Bentham admits only the total quantity of pleasure as contributing to value, Mill expands the circle to admit quality or kind of pleasure as well into the value reckoning. I have elsewhere interpreted and defended Mill's qualitative hedonism, and in this paper I can offer only a brief overview of that account and must largely assume its plausibility. Bentham and Mill agree that only pleasurable experiences and the absence of painful experiences have value and so both are called hedonists. But they have very different views about what properties of pleasures makes them valuable, or in other words what are the good-making properties of pleasure. Bentham thinks that only intensity and duration, or quantity, are good-making properties of pleasures, and thus he includes only these properties in measuring value. As a consequence, in the context of value measurement he is not interested in the kinds of things in which people take pleasure. But Mill is a qualitative hedonist, and thinks that the quality or kind of pleasure is also a good-making characteristic and thus should be included in value measurement. The things that are sources of pleasure matter to Mill.