Chapter III: Hedonism.

§ 62.

It is plain, then, that the doctrine of Egoism is self-contradictory; and that one reason why this is not perceived is a confusion with regard to the meaning of the phrase my own good. And it may be observed that this confusion and the neglect of this contradiction are necessarily involved in the transition from Naturalistic Hedonism, as ordinarily held, to Utilitarianism. Mill, for instance, as we saw, declares: Each person, so far as he believes it to be attainable, desires his own happiness (p. 53). And he offers this as a reason why the general happiness is desirable. We have seen that to regard it as such, involves, in the first place, the naturalistic fallacy. But moreover, even if that fallacy were not a fallacy, it could only be a reason for Egoism and not for Utilitarianism. Mill’s argument is as follows: a man desires his own happiness; therefore his own happiness is desirable. Further: A man desires nothing but his own happiness; therefore his own happiness is alone desirable. We have next to remember, that everybody, according to Mill, so desires his own happiness: and then it will follow that everybody’s happiness is alone desirable. And this is simply a contradiction in terms. Just consider what it means. Each man’s happiness is the only thing desirable: several different things are each of them the only thing desirable. This is the fundamental contradiction of Egoism. In order to think that what his arguments tend to prove is not Egoism but Utilitarianism, Mill must think that he can infer from the proposition Each man’s happiness is his own good, the proposition The happiness of all is the good of all; whereas in fact, if we understand what his own good means, it is plain that the latter can only be inferred from The happiness of all is the good of each. Naturalistic Hedonism, then, logically leads only to Egoism. Of course, a Naturalist might hold that what we aimed at was simply pleasure not our own pleasure; and that, always assuming the naturalistic fallacy, would give an unobjectionable ground for Utilitarianism. But more commonly he will hold that it is his own pleasure he desires, or at least will confuse this with the other; and then he must logically be led to adopt Egoism and not Utilitarianism. (§ 62 ¶ 1)