PHL 204-07

*** HANDOUT: Mill’s proof, first stage ***

    Stage 1: Your pleasure is good for you

  • attempts to place this proof between 2 extremes
    • arbitrary proof, pure subjectivism
    • rationalism, pure reason tells us what is good
  • Mill rejects both, relies on experience
  • desires: certain kinds of experiences are evidence of value
  • objection: people often seem to desire things that aren’t good
  • response: desires are defeasible evidence of value (can be wrong)
    • the desire to be rich: many people don’t desire wealth for its own sake; rather they desire it as a means to feel pleasure
    • what about the heroin addict? the desire mechanism is malfunctioning
  • Stage 2: Prove that your pleasure is the only thing intrinsically good for you

  • to do this, Mill attempts to prove that it is not possible for anyone to desire anything for its own sake except his own pleasure (psychological hedonism). Can this be true?
    • heroism/self-sacrifice
    • irrationality
    • morality
  • Response to objections: when you get what you want you experience pleasure — if this is true, then doesn’t that prove that we desire the things that give us pleasure for themselves?

Mill’s response to counter-examples: people can only desire their own pleasure for its own sake; furthermore people can desire virtue and money for its own sake.

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