Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 16.djvu/527

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
501
JOHN STUART MILL.

JOHN STUART MILL.
By ALEXANDER BAIN, LL. D.,
PROFESSOR OF LOGIC IN THE UNIVERSITY OF ABERDEEN.
VI.

CLOSELY connected both in date of composition and in subject-matter is the "Utilitarianism." I find from a letter that it was written in 1854. It was thoroughly revised in 1860, and appeared as three papers in "Fraser's Magazine" in the beginning of 1861. I am not aware that any change was made in reprinting it as a volume, notwithstanding that it had a full share of hostile criticism as it came out in "Fraser."

This short work has many volumes to answer for. The amount of attention it has received is due, in my opinion, partly to its merits, and partly to its defects. As a powerful advocacy of utility, it threw the intuitionists on the defensive; while, by a number of unguarded utterances, it gave them important strategic positions which they could not fail to occupy.

It is this last point that I shall now chiefly dwell upon. What I allude to more particularly is the theory of pleasure and pain embodied in the second chapter, or rather the string of casual expressions having reference to pleasures and pains. I have already said that I consider Mill's Hedonism weak. I do not find fault with him for not having elaborated a Hedonistic theory; that is a matter still ahead of us. My objection lies to certain loose expressions that have received an amount of notice from hostile critics out of all proportion to their bearing on his arguments for utility. I think that, having opponents at every point, his proper course was not to commit himself to any more specific definition of happiness than his case absolutely required.

It was obviously necessary that he should give some explanation of happiness; and on his principles happiness must be resolved into pleasure and the absence of pain. Here, however, he had to encounter at once the common dislike to regarding pleasure as the sole object of desire and pursuit—"a doctrine worthy only of swine," to which its holders have both in ancient and in modern times been most profusely likened. He courageously faces the difficulty by pronouncing in favor of a difference in kind or quality among pleasures; which difference he expands through two or three eloquent pages, which I believe have received more attention from critics on the other side than all the rest of the book put together. My own decided opinion is, that he ought to have resolved all the so-called nobler or higher pleasures into the one single feature of including with the agent's pleasure the pleasure of others. This is the only position that a supporter of utility can hold to. There is a superiority attaching to some pleasures that are