“Of two pleasures. If there be one to which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference… that is the more desirable pleasure. Now it is an unquestionable fact that those who are equally acquainted with, and equally capable of appreciating and enjoying, both, do give a most marked preference to the manner of existence which employs their higher faculties… It is better to be a human being satisfied than a pig dissatisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.”
-John Stuart Mill, “Utilitarianism”, ch. 2
"De gustibus et coloribus non est disputandum.”
In John Stuart Mill’s treatise, Utilitarianism, the basic philosophical premise of his whole system of ethics is that, in a nut-shell, that which is good is determined by what brings the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people, or, as Mill put it, the Greatest Happiness Principle, as the basis for determining utility. Among the immediate problems this raises to any analysis is, of course, the difficulty in pinning down a rational, objective framework for determining happiness, which Mill equates early on with pleasure as “the only thing desirable as ends”. Mill spots this, and distinguishes very early on in the 2nd chapter of Utilitarianism, where he admits that estimation of pleasure needs to take into account quality as well as quantity. In his argument, however, the nature of pleasure is divided into merely “higher” and “lower”, and the thrust of his argument is that higher pleasures are those derived as a result of exercising one’s higher faculties, !
compared to the more animal gratifications such as sexual needs or food, and the quality of these higher pleasures is evident as they would be chosen by people with empirical experience of both varieties of pleasure, and the capacity to select between them over the more base ones. In my essay, I will, with particular reference t...