Book III: The Moral Ideal and Moral Progress.

Chapter I: Good and Moral Good.


Now it will be found, we think, that with Mill this supposition really rests on a confusion between the pleasure or removal of pain which ensues upon the satisfaction of any desire and the object of that desire. In an eloquent passage he illustrates the unwillingness of any one acquainted with the higher pleasures to exchange them for any quantity of the lower:-- (§165 ¶1)

Now it is an unquestionable fact that those who are equally acquainted with, and equally capable of appreciating and enjoying, both, do give a most marked preference to the manner of existence which employs their higher faculties. Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs. They would not resign what they possess more than he for the most complete satisfaction of all the desires which they have in common with him. If they ever fancy they would, it is only in cases of unhappiness so extreme, that to escape from it they would exchange their lot for almost any other, however undesirable in their own eyes. A being of higher faculties requires more to make him happy, is capable probably of more acute suffering, and certainly accessible to it at more points, than one of an inferior type; but in spite of these liabilities, he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence. We may give what explanation we please of this unwillingness; we may attribute it to pride, a name which is given indiscriminately to some of the most and to some of the least estimable feelings of which mankind are capable: we may refer it to the love of liberty and personal independence, an appeal to which was with the Stoics one of the most effective means for the inculcation of it; to the love of power, or to the love of excitement, both of which do really enter into and contribute to it: but its most appropriate appellation is a sense of dignity, which all human beings possess in one form or other, and in some, though by no means in exact, proportion to their higher faculties, and which is so essential a part of the happiness of those in whom it is strong, that nothing which conflicts with it could be, otherwise than momentarily, an object of desire to them. (§165 ¶2)

It appears from this passage that there is a motive, which has been variously described as pride, love of liberty, love of power, love of excitement, but of which the most appropriate designation is sense of dignity, that makes a man of a certain sort refuse to accept any amount of such pleasure as a fool, or a dunce, or a rascal might share, in lieu of the exercise of the higher faculties, however much suffering this may entail. This refusal is appealed to as showing that the pleasure attending this exercise is intrinsically preferable to such as may be shared with a dunce or a rascal. That it is intrinsically preferable those who are not Utilitarians will readily agree. But unless it is a greater pleasure on the whole, it is not on Utilitarian principles more really desirable or the greater good, and the fact that by the sort of person in contemplation it is preferred does not show that it is even for him, much less that it is on the whole, the greater pleasure, unless his preference is necessarily for what is to him the greatest pleasure. (§165 ¶3)