His engagement with the question of how society and its institutions ought to be organized is of course guided by an abstract commitment to general happiness as the measure of the success of all human practice—but it is also deeply attentive to the concrete possibilities and dangers of the newly emerging democratic era, and how they relate to this overarching goal Skorupski Utilitarianism, X: The claim that it would be rational to sacrifice any amount of a lower pleasure for a minuscule amount of a higher pleasure, though, seems too implausible to attribute to Mill—and in the passage cited, he only registers a sufficient condition for considering one pleasure of a higher quality to another, and not a necessary condition Saunders ; Miller Basically, you get our current political system which just seems broken to me.
The great writers to whom the world owes what religious liberty it possesses, have mostly asserted freedom of conscience as an indefeasible right, and denied absolutely that a human being is accountable to others for his religious belief.
In the book, Mill takes the position that, with certain limited exceptions, people should be free to think what they want, believe what they want, worship or not worship as they want, speak and write freely and conduct their own personal lives without interference from the government.
Mill argues that only by examining our beliefs and subjecting them to rigorous debate and evaluation can we achieve true wisdom. Those who doubt whether Mill remains a hedonist have in general claimed that Mill moves towards a eudaimonistic or perfectionist account of happiness Brink 46ff.
But by carefully varying conditions, Mill holds, we can isolate causes and reveal the laws which govern natural phenomena. Virtue, according to the utilitarian doctrine, is not naturally and originally part of the end, but it is capable of becoming so […] There was no original desire of it, or motive to it, save its conduciveness to pleasure, and especially to protection from pain.
To the second question, Mill holds that where we do gain genuinely new knowledge—in cases of mathematics and geometry, for instance—we must, at some level, be reasoning inductively. The character of the mind of an individual, Mill holds, is a function entirely of the experiences that individual has undergone.
Such discoveries clarify and strengthen our sense of why a priori knowledge is impossible in the first place, and why empirical investigation is necessary for any genuine knowledge. In like manner, I apprehend, the sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it.
Autobiography, I: Because naturalism is a substantive doctrine, that is a possibility to which Mill must remain open.