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amount of pleasant feeling that results. Pleasure is still the standard, but not the ultimate standard; for a further appeal has to be made to the criterion that distinguishes one pleasure from another, not as merely greater or less, but as higher or lower. As is well known, Mill did not look either to the action or to the feeling itself for this criterion. To have done so would have implied an acknowledgment that pleasure was no longer regarded as the ultimate standard. He found the criterion of determined superiority simply in the opinion people of ex- ity, perience have about the relative desirability of various sorts of pleasure. But such a criterion only pushes the final question of the standard one step farther back. Those people of experience to whom Mill refers—who have tried both kinds of pleasure, and prefer one of them can they give no reason for, no account of, their preference? If so, to trust them is to appeal to blind authority, and to relinquish anything like a science of ethics. But, if Mill's authorities can reflect on their feelings, as well as feel, they can only tell us one or other of two things. Either the so-called “higher” pleasure is actually, as pleasure, so preferable to that called “ lower,” that the smallest amount of the one would be more pleasurable than the largest amount
i I have spoken, for simplicity's sake, as if there were two kinds of pleasure easily distinguishable. But the question is really much more complicated.
or leads to
of the other; or else the higher is called higher, and is to be preferred to the lower—even although the latter may be greater as pleasure—because of a
quality belonging to it over and above its character either can as pleasant feeling. The former verdict would be
ce in the first place paradoxical, and, in the second of quantity, place, would give up Mill's case, by reducing non-hedon- quality to a quantitative standard. Besides, it
would be no valid ground of preference for men in general; since the pleasure of various actions and states differs according to the susceptibility of the subject. According to the latter verdict, the characteristic upon which the distinction of quality depends, and not pleasure itself, becomes the
ethical standard. (5) ambigui. In respect of his main contention, that utilitarian
ism is a theory of beneficence, and not of prudence or of selfishness, Mill emphasised even more strongly than Bentham had done the distinction between the egoism which seeks its own things, and the utilitarianism according to which everybody counts for one, and nobody for more than one. But when he attempted to connect this doctrine logically with the psychological postulates of his school, he committed a double error. In the first place, he confused the purely psychological question of the motives that influence human conduct with the ethical question of the end to which conduct ought to be directed; and, in the second place, he disregarded
ties in his proof of utilitarian ism.
the difference of end there may be for society as a collective whole, and for each member of the society individually. “There is in reality," he says,1 “nothing desired except happiness;" and this psychological theory is too hastily identified with the ethical principle that happiness alone is desirable, or what ought to be desired and pursued. Moreover, “no reason,” he says, “can be given why the general happiness is desirable, except that each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness.” And this admission, which seems as good as saying that no reason at all can be given why the individual should desire the general happiness, is only held to be a sufficient reason for it, through assuming that what is good for all as an aggregate is good for each member of the aggregate: “That each person's happiness is a good to that person, and the general happiness, therefore, a good to the aggregate of all persons.” 2
It may appear strange to offer the preceding as the Imperfect logical basis of an ethical principle which has had of ethical so wide and, on the whole, beneficial an influence
cc retical phil. as utilitarianism. The explanation is to be found osophy. in the want of full coherence which often exists, and is nowhere commoner than in English ethics, between an author's practical view of life and the foundation of psychology or metaphysics with which i Utilitarianism, p. 57.
2 Ibid., p. 53.
it is connected. It would certainly be wrong to imagine that Bentham's self-denying labours rested on a confusion of standpoints, or that Mill's moral enthusiasm had no other support than a logical quibble. To both of them, and to many others, utilitarianism was an ethical creed influencing their lives, which was scarcely connected with the attempt to justify it logically. Such reasons in its favour as they adduced were rather after-thoughts for the defence of their creed than the foundations
on which it was built. 5. Actual The formula of utilitarianism cannot be expressed utilitarian- as the conclusion of a syllogism or of an inductive
inference. It seems rather to have been arrived at by the production—or the recognition-of a sympathetic or “altruistic” sentiment, which was made to yield a general principle for the guidance of conduct. This process involves two steps, which are consecutive and complementary, although the positions they connect are not necessarily related. The first step is to overcome the selfish principle of action in the individual; the second to generalise it, and obtain a principle for the non-selfish action that results. Mill seems to be the only recent writer who, in making this transition, adheres strictly to the psychological hedonism distinctive of his school. He looks to the influence of education in increasing the feeling of unity between one man and his neighbours, till individual action becomes merged in altruistic or social action. “The social state,” he says, “is at once so natural, so necessary, and so habitual to man, that, except in some unusual circumstances, or by an effort of voluntary abstraction, he never conceives himself otherwise than as a member of a body.”] This is perfectly true, but does not imply a sublation of selfishness. A man“ never conceives himself otherwise than as a member of a body ;” but it does not follow from this that he will subordinate his own interests to the interests of the other members when the two clash. In cases of conflict the individual often tends to sacrifice the good of his neighbours to his own good; and he may do so although he fully recognises the social consequences of action, just because he still remains at the ethical standpoint which treats private good as superior to public. It is true, as Mill contends, that, “in an improving state of the human mind, the influences are constantly on the increase, which tend to generate in each individual a feeling of unity with all the rest; which feeling, if perfect, would make him never think of, or desire, any beneficial condition for himself, in the benefits of which they are not included.” 2 But this is not sufficient to connect the two antagonistic