Higher and lower pleasures

HideShow resource information

Which Pleasures

Mill argues that the claim utilitarianism degrades human beings misunderstands what human beings take pleasure in. Some types of pleasure are 'higher' than others, more valuble, more important to human happiness, given the types of creatures we are and what we are capable of. 

How can we tell if a type of pleasure is more valuble (quality) than another, rather than just more pleasurable (quantity). The answer has to be to ask people who know what their talking about. If everyone (or almost everyone) who has had experience of two types of pleasure prefers one type to the other, then the type they prefer is more valuble. To ensure they are consdiering the quality and not the quantity of the pleasure, we should add another condition. A pleasure is higher only if people who have experience of both types of pleasure prefer one even if having that pleasure brings more pain with it, or again, if they would choose it over a greater quanity of another type of pleasure. 

Mill argues that as long as physicial needs are met, people will prefer pleasures of thought, feeling and imaginitation to pleasures of the body and the senses, even though our higher capacities also mean we can expeirence terrible pain, boredom and dissatisfcation, e.g 'it is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.  And the same with creativity and intelligence, better to have the pleasures they bring although they bring pain and distress, than to be unintelligent and or lack creativity. 

1 of 2

Mill compares the human being with a pig

Mill compares the human being with a pig ( the objection claims that valuing only pleasure is 'a doctirine only worthy of a swine'. As human beings we can experience pleasures of deep personal relationships, art and creative thought that pigs cannot,  we can expeirence new and deeper kinds of pain as a result. Yet we dont think that the possibility of pain would be a good reason to be  well looked after pig rather than a human being. 

'It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied'

Thus Mill rejects the felicific calculus and adds the element of quality to the quantiative analysis of happiness that Bentham puts forward. 

Then again this prediction may be wrong as some people may rather seek out 'lower pleasures' related to body and snese rather than 'higher pleasures' of feeling and imagination'. Mill rejects this and says that there is a difference between preference and action. We can choose what we know to be less good, by weakness or laziness. 

2 of 2


No comments have yet been made

Similar Philosophy resources:

See all Philosophy resources »See all Utilitarianism resources »