Book III: The Moral Ideal and Moral Progress.

Chapter I: Good and Moral Good.


The real ground then of Mill’s departure from the stricter Utilitarian doctrine, that the worth of pleasure depends simply on its amount, is his virtual surrender of the doctrine that all desire is for pleasure; but he does not recognise this surrender, because he thinks that to call a desired object part of the happiness of the person desiring it is equivalent to saying that the desire for the object is a desire for pleasure. Yet little reflection is needed to show that it is not so. The latter proposition can only mean that a possible action or experience is contemplated as likely to be pleasant, and is then desired for the sake of the pleasure. It means that the anticipation of pleasure determines desire. But the other proposition, that a desired object is part of the happiness of the person desiring it, rather means that desire determines the anticipation of pleasure; that, given desire for an object, however different from pleasure that object may be, there results pleasure, or at least a removal of pain, in the satisfaction of the desire; that the man feeling the desire necessarily looks forward to this result as part of a possible happiness to come, and cannot be completely happy till the object is attained. This is equivalent to saying, as has been so often mentioned above, that to desire an object is to seek self-satisfaction in its attainment, but it does not in the least imply that pleasure is the object in which self-satisfaction is sought. (§167 ¶1)