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Higher Pleasures to Define Human Ethics, Research Paper Example

Pages: 2

Words: 600

Research Paper

“It may be objected that many who are capable of the higher pleasures occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower. But this is quite compatible with a full appreciation of the intrinsic superiority of the higher. Men often, from infirmity of character, make their election for the nearer good, though they know it to be the less valuable; and this no less when the choice is between two bodily pleasures than when it is between bodily and mental.”
Mill, J.S., Utilitarianism, pg. 10

Mill claims that many who have full knowledge of the higher pleasures sometimes desire to choose the lower pleasures. He refers to a hierarchy of pleasures in which some are clearly more valuable than others. He claims that pleasures of the intellect are more valuable above all others (the higher pleasures are more desirable than the lower). Additionally, he claims that men suffer from weakness of the will and sometimes may postpone intellectual pleasures to select the more easily obtained pleasures such as the lower bodily pleasures, even when they know the intellectual pleasures are more lofty and noble.
How Mill Arrives at His Claim
To understand how Mill arrives at his claim in the quotation above, it is necessary to analyze his view on the nature of human pleasure seeking. Mill refers to “…utilitarian writers …in their intrinsic nature” (Utilitarianism, p. 1-2). This explains that mental pleasures are superior to bodily pleasures due to the permanency and safety. He also states that “no intelligent
human being would consent to be a fool …common with him” (p. 2). This basically means that no intelligent human would trade their intelligence in return for the pleasures of a fool.
How the Claim Contributes to Its Immediate Context
As his claim makes reference to its immediate context, Mill quotes “Capacity for other nobler feelings…capable of enjoyment” (p. 3). He contends that the reason why utilitarian men sometimes chose the lower pleasures; they lost their capacity for feeling noble.
I have dwelt on this point, as being a necessary part of a perfectly just conception of Utility or Happiness, considered as the directive rule of human conduct. But it is by no means an indispensable condition to the acceptance of the utilitarian standard; for that standard is not the agent’s own greatest happiness, but the greatest amount of happiness altogether; and if it may possibly be doubted whether a noble character is always the happier for its nobleness, there can be no doubt that it makes other people happier, and that the world in general is immensely a gainer by it. Utilitarianism, therefore, could only attain its end by the general cultivation of nobleness of character, even if each individual were only benefited by the nobleness of others, and his own, so far as happiness is concerned, were a sheer deduction from the benefit. But the bare enunciation of such an absurdity as this last, renders refutation superfluous.
This paragraph is significant because Mill can argue for the “greatest happiness principle” which explains that when men go for the higher pleasures, they will be able to act not only for themselves but also for others.
Based on Mill’s view, it may be assumed by some that people who make higher pleasures priorities are more successful and satisfied with their lives, because they waste little time and effort and are able to see the fruits of their labor benefit themselves as well as others in society, due to the effort they put forth for the realization of their desires.

Works Cited
Mill, J.S. (2002). Utilitarianism. Hackett Pub Co., 2nd ed.

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