In the comments on Jussi's thread, a side discussion developed about Mill's theory of value. Dale Dorsey indicated that he has concluded that Mill is not a hedonist. I'm inclined to defend the claim that he is. I'm not prepared to defend hedonism, and so I think that considerations of charity favor ascribing a different view to him, but I think the textual evidence is strong enough that we just have to say that Mill got this one wrong. Of course, the first piece of evidence for me to cite is the following passage from Utilitarianism II2:
By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure. . . . [P]leasure, and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends; and . . . all desirable things (which are as numerous in the utilitarian as in any other scheme) are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain.
Now this looks like as straightforward a statement of hedonism as you could want, but I concede that not much in Utilitarianism is straightforward. So there is more for us to discuss. But as a starter, let me mention Mill's account of dignity, which Dale D. cited as a reason for rejecting the hedonistic reading. Here is the relevant passage:
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. Whoever supposes that this preference takes place at a sacrifice of happiness- that the superior being, in anything like equal circumstances, is not happier than the inferior- confounds the two very different ideas, of happiness, and content (II6).
Rather than seeing this as evidence of Mill's holding a nonhedonistic value theory, I want to claim that he is asserting that the sense of dignity is a source of (higher quality) pleasure. This is kind of lame, but I'm going to quote from a piece of my own, a chapter of the Mill book that I am supposed to be writing. I mean, that I am writing.
Second, Mill's belief that the mere possession of developed faculties can be a source of aesthetic pleasure is also worth mentioning at this point. This emerges when he invokes the notion of a sense of dignity to explain why individuals with developed faculties would not willingly surrender those faculties for any quantity of the lower pleasures.
We may give what explanation we please of this unwillingness . . . 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.
This is a passage that has largely been ignored by commentators. Mill's contention that a person can come to take pleasure in the thought of being virtuous and to find the thought of being vicious painful is the key to understanding it. To possess a sense of dignity is to take pleasure in the thought that one has reached whatever level of development that one has and to find the thought of regressing in one's internal culture painful. This higher quality pleasure results from the operation of the imaginative faculty; it comes from an individual's aesthetic appreciation of the degree of perfection that he or she has attained. (There will not necessarily be a strict proportionality between the level of development attained and the amount of happiness enjoyed. Perhaps some of the most advanced individuals will still be most conscious of and troubled by their own remaining limitations.)
So obviously I don't think that the dignity passage forces us to read Mill as anything other than a hedonist. What say you, PEA Soupers? (And since this is my first post, let me apologize in advance for any formatting errors. Including the one I already fixed.)