Mill and the Utility of Liberty Author(s): Mark Strasser Source: The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 34, No.

134 (Jan., 1984), pp. 63-68 Published by: Blackwell Publishing for The Philosophical Quarterly Stable URL: . Accessed: 19/04/2011 10:54
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. point could produced be thereby. notas telling itmight appear. indepenmerely is absolute. 281-89. and that as the Ten objects Millcannot. might (as inthe this is utility-maximizing long run. hurts of "the others because their and (which injury sympathies interests). thus into category conduct. society prohibit actions ifthey "violate distinct may only to other if is or obligationany (pp. But individuality is a "evenifthis true.MILL AND THE UTILITY OF LIBERTY BY MARK STRASSER as Yet of becauseMillwasa champion liberty a utilitarian personalliberty.more be Froma utilitarian ofview.MillonLiberty.. itis precisely take Mill'sdefence liberty of receives attention. 15(subsequent 1975) Essays inJ. Ten rejects explanation. Mill. society large". doesnot warrant prohibition. he is Millsays "the part the which amenable society. nearly affect...' of actions an Mill's Somecritics consider categoryself-regarding tobenearly empty for actions which onehasever no set. in allouractions affect will others some an provokes anger. 3ibid. regard theselfhim.. Over is. 10. Ten. Critics stances. S. as accurate. body mind. 104). these make difference.. utilitarian disregard considerations distress cannot of to religious and others self-regarding and number caused the conduct.clearly it affects and falls the resentment them. p. 2 C. Mill'sConcept Liberty thePrinciple Utility". is to that only of conduct anyone of In part his which concerns others. usually oneoftwo Millis indeed true a defender liberty. gives misleading it account Mill'sposition. edition). Journal Value 7 Inquiry(1973). individual sovereign".4 happiness and one maintain Milldoes)that promotionliberty the of Of course. himself although "I that a admit themischief which person doestohimself.."2 other-regarding Mill is This criticism. a consistent discount sympathies utilitarian. of "A such as the interests anyone.p.. fully with their and those both connected interests."3 Stegenga if with interference liberty would desirable. they that is a consistent our and that deserves praise respect. S. 34. 4 James of of and of Stegenga.hiscalculation. 1980). the which concerns that himself. decisive seems share difference. the of greater of A a and human freedom". through sympathies their at with to However. sometimes All will a and perhaps people to to Ten'ssentiments.Three (Oxford."Except a few trivial of very thoughtsuppressing. cannot its to expect thereby he it because suffersthe at thoughtpeople's of to merely practising religion be outlawed (p. person persons" 101-2). [W]heneveract of of ordisgust others. himself. "J. hisown over and the dence ofright. anaction assignable that Abigot a harmfulothers. pp. p.and in a minor degree. (Oxford.Thus. of not although on utilitarian Theysaythat he utilitarian is no great who of Or champion say grounds.[I]n of saying: tothis references ' 'On Liberty'. L. seriously may says. regarding isone can to for sake the inconvenience which good society affordbear. the bigot to by a whoareso affected. the way.

. a in largest that Ten offersdifferent sense'. religion. Works ohn Stuart Vol. Millsays with be that regard the"injury which causesto society. including past. regard utility theultimate appealon all ethical particular in but be on sense. interpretarefer the Ten's a for to which tionofMill cannot correct.cit. peopleto follow in interestedmaximizing utility a the of Yet. is not He generations the promotion religious by in that he the it. says. conduct neither violates specific tothe by any person duty nor hurt individual the himself. do not they that is understand libertya necessary ofcivilization. it must utility thelargest grounded thepermanent of interests manas a progressive which (p.9 not about of Millwould beconcerned ensuring happiness ofa whole the even society is For when to happiness happiness insignificant compared the produced bigots. 'o Ten. When talks utility thelargest he he of about utility the sense. 78. 78. 70).Sec. is talking "theHumanRace. 6. holdsthat peopledo notvalueliberty highly enough. p. of 8 A Bk.2. present the andthefuture". be of boundaries no andtheadjustmentthe between andsocial it control would present be that as as should difficulty" Millbelieves attitudeswell actions (p. example. Mill justified.10." WorksJohn Stuart Vol. "there then that would nodanger liberty be should undervalued. occasions 6 Ten.8 of to of and [of] of the "maximizing happiness allmankind". 9 Utilitarianism.Ifwelookattheparagraphs this we Millis talking about and "mankind" "therace precede comment.5 Milldoesnot that discount certain dissatisfactions hecanbe sure so that arbitrarily of theover-all and will consequences developing individuality liberty be favourable. in individuality. 'utility thelargest sense'doesnot to development ofindividuality. number bigoted people ofthe ference. Individualityinthe long-run. the of if do value Thus. saw Mill discussing self-regarding in It he tions certain and forms distress hiscalculation. people not sufficiently liberty their should be reinforced.cit.?4. 334. System ofLogic."Bentham". finds the and that promotion (who ofbigotry generations would not would be utility-maximizing. being" 16). and Comte Positivism. just of because disregarded of that be that over-all certain satisfactions hecould sosure the consequencesdevelopwould be ingindividuality indeed favourable".they and part didso understand. 5 . inthe sense' to development ofindividuality refers the largest 'Utility anditsassociated pleasures". all..Ch."Auguste Collected of Mill.op. "discounting" bigot's happiness thesense he is ignoring Rather. 7Collected Mill. attitudes not to government religious should be allowed dictate bigot policy. 15. However.6 isusing same He standard hetalks the when of "moral perfection of the species". p. p. In someutilitarian the of a make difmight calculations.the ultimategoalhappiness happens tobedetachable the be will.op. unhappinessthe not for the of highly. suggests He of'utilitythe interpretation in sense isdetachable the that from growth "theultimate isnot really happinessany goal ofindividuality.10. p.utility-maximizing. their of for countless tolerance.if vast After the majority membersa particular arereligious of society thenmuchunhappiness be causedbyallowing will the bigots. questions. except perceptible toany assignable public. see that of in itself". Ch.'0 of of not from growth True.conceived a continuous as the the whole. extraordinary in accord with principle utility. 7.64 MARK STRASSER we that wished discount certain to satisfacconduct. If education culture. it While is true he discounts that accusationsarbitrariness of arenot certain attitudes. ?10. is of with unhappiness countless the of future the comparing unhappiness thebigots suffer the from bigotry). Millis notmerely offending He "I as society.7 "conduciveness the happiness mankind".

p. 13 op. op.John p.indeed. inthe wrongplace italics]" 102). he notes. from of [my the consequencesto the generalinterest imposing of limitations theexercise on of social pressure conform". interms personal when it choosesto intervene. Mill's"detailed Cowling recognizes inOnLiberty.. ifany For. Cowlingdoes notdeny Millpraises protection personal liberty. thefact that. Mill is weighing from consequences. cited Cowlingevenknows Ten arguesconvincingly Millis.p. cit. evenmoreimportant "thegreater freedom".one would be surprised as wouldapprove man'spursuing pleasure of whatsoever. Cowling. Autobiography.for sakeofthegreater goodof humanfreedom" 101). 12 . Ten and of If were correct aboutMill's emphasis liberty. each pursueshisown".12 Mill does notdeserve reputation a champion individual his as of Cowlingclaimsthat on liberty twocounts: 1. He is selectiveabout whichpleasureshe thinks suitablemeans to are happiness. anypleasurea man not happenstopursue". of in delimitation thepowerof society to is (and government) relation theindividual in to but to regard made.p. injuries.'3Veryfew. It is somewhat that that of complains Mill doesnotapprove "any surprising Cowling wouldbe so pleasure a man happensto pursue".Mill doesnotsupport protection liberty its own sake. Cowlingis further withregard which to displeasedby Mill's elitism "WhenMilluseshappiness.). Cowling means the happinessthatrational reflection wouldapprove. cit.'4 Cowling realizes Mill. andLiberalism. 2.. after are made up ofsingle all human obtain greater ofhappiness. Works I. pleasures that the of he indeed.e.inhisAutobiography. in terms whatitdoes whenitintervenes. and yoke aboutthepassagein OnLiberty above(note1). Mill 16 Ten.p. a sum when beings. 14 "Auguste Comteand Positivism. . "the preventing contingent" strongest the ofall "merely the the with isthat it conduct. pleasurewas acceptable." 337. 259.not view the of natural rights individualsbefree italics]. p. [my than is Thus. publictends actwrongly. that the expresses fearthat"theinevitable of and of growth socialequality thegovernmentpublic opinion ' an shouldimposeon mankind oppressive ofuniformity inopinion practice". which Mill assigns subordinate status Mill protects and because doingso is utility-maximizing for liberty individuality mankind. MillandLiberalism 1963). ofwhyliberty he of mustbe protected.philosophers if liberal-minded to approveof any pleasure.if any. (p. theprotection liberty on then of wouldbe themostimportant reasonsupporting Itwouldnothavethe non-interference.Indeed. rather thesakeof someother end. odds that interferes (p. society's it. maximizing utility. citesthepassage in whichMill criticizes Comtefor realizing not "that who mankind. defender personal that a of and liberty'6 that ' Maurice Cowling. thelimitation libertyper buttheimposition mediocre se. interfere. Cowling Stuart Mill: Collected Vol. I5 JohnRobson (ed. 32. pleasureshe (Mill)saysarepraiseworthy. was nota champion liberty. (Cambridge. goodofhuman in "cases ofpurely the to both of conduct". when does personal against interference public purely arguments of the are it and wrongly. 41. op. He does notwishtoprotect for but for liberty itsownsake.He saysthatmoregood results preserving thanfrom freedom Yet. cit. 78. as Cowling wellas Ten seemstomakethat that mistake. p."' to the of for Thus. 32.MILL AND THE UTILITY OF LABOUR 65 is to the can inconvenience onewhich society afford bear. wouldbe a mistake maintain becausehe offersutilitarian to a It account that. Cowlinghimself any then sadistic wouldbe permissible.i.. values of of not talksaboutMill as fearing. and attitudes.

Rule A and Rule B. despiteTen's eloquence. all. this so. always utility his that there a conflict is He between Secondly. longas Mill is willing allowothers pursue pleasures thenhe cannotfairly characterized one who wouldlimit be as others' theyprefer. by one could judge a particular thatone action. theprinciple liberty (Rule B) shouldtakeprecedence produce moreutility.he is assuming theprinciples of that of Grayis guilty twomistakes are and utility comparable.He seemstobe afraid utilitarians not do that Cowlingis worried at that is worried however. right be free be protected.secondary. about thefirst issue. or viceversa. Cowling notonly respectpersonalliberty all. notimply he is nota champion of to that does of one to As to the which personalliberty.e. thatan iteration the utility of of is (i. conflict which If thanin following principle utility.First all.secondary about must victorious.'8 grounds italics]accordedpriority theutility principle [my in tionmight supported thefollowing Supposethat be there two are rules which way.then. ofLogic. Nomos Mill on Liberty. 20 A System Bk. primary and theprinciple liberty. 7 op. Graysupposes is the principle liberty.Mill suggests in those that utility there a conflict is between moral cases inwhich one follow rule the which rules. 7.p. rule. utility. Cowlingcites).Rule B dictates performing One must decide whichruletofollow.Graysuggests that"Mill's doctrine liberty. overtheprinciple utility of (Rule A). claimsthat.'7 one maintains individuals a natural right to be free. ?24.then the of is has shown Gray merely liberty that haveoverlooked we someofthehidden in the of utilities following principle liberty. of He to Rule according Mill. following B would of Thus.20 other All is principleof utility the primary of which which are. theprinciple liberty) on utilitarian principle over This formulaitself".66 MARK STRASSER he is Ten out because merely Cowling'schargethat is illiberal undeserved.the liberty is rule by whicheverything judged. should 9 that maximizes RuleA is theprinciple utility that of and RuleB utility. ?4.Grayis belying Ten points (and as is shown thequotations out which by in of of rights. Ch. claims in and a there moreutility following principle in is the of utility liberty. prove oughtbe performed.indeed. For. perform action. leastaccording Mill.Indeed. Utility Rights.) if The disagreement between them be two might easierto understand we identify separateissues: 1. of a the which action rule. the of by Cowling. one infers Cowling wouldremain However. of unconvinced.would prefer interpretations Mill offered Grayor Sartorius. 18 . 12. between principle the of there conflict is If. Does Mill defend protection personal the of liberty? the of 2.p. One waytochoosewouldbe todetermine whether Rule more following A promotes thandoes following Rule B. (After Cowlingcitesin his ownbookmany thepassgestowhich Ten refers. cit. Theyarerules thumb helpus toknow actionswillbe utility-maximizing. points that Mill prefers type pleasure another. principles atbest. of here. seems. Does Mill defend protection personal for reasons? liberty theright aboutbothissues. One infers. Rule A dictates the thatone refrain from it. to They are not. Ch." JohnGray. 19 Utilitarianism.Sec. that freedoms. For. 2.. of embodies paradox the then.Mill argueseloquently favour theprotection individual a of as about"thenatural Cowlingenvisions truechampion individual rights talking If of to that have rights individuals be free". 95. Stuart and "John (1981).evenin cases wherethere a conflict of is between protection the the and of the to will right themaximization utility.

6. "What about must by that be shown. despite fact doing is why notutility-maximizing. grounds.he might suggesting oneneedn't down figure therelative of ornot an action utilities performing performing time one a make every that must decision what do. 3.Gray act-utilitarians bardirect to claim."22 very in extreme they beviolated. 60-1. 1975).if by liberty. the data theparticular case us". namely. absoluteprohibition (He correctly says on governmental interference" be justified. merely way.Thisinterpretation to issupported hissaying. Individual Conduct SocialNorms. merely liberty utilityonly asserting the which could used support to a be that Sartorius makes claim Gray's position. "ofcourse" With there be effect" justified. and(2) The would the consequences to such when have best can be right violate rules sodoing retained theindividual [my Moralnorms would taken be by agent italics]. basically Mill cases. certain seriously. ofLogic. position prohibit) appeals utility. willhaveto setup goodsafeguards prevent be We to exceptions no unless interferences interferences. op. p. improper e. ?3. of priority the then must he show itshould accorded be the that so priority. which determine the considerations will where merits sure)thesetofconsequentialist in lie. they utility [act-utilitarians] tosupportconventional norm a moral the and of concerning making keeping promises to to which direct bars the abdicated right decide appeals utility. interfere to with would atimproper times.. stronger He says ifallowed interfere liberties. stemming [a]fear the from that power would abused". at some rules then.Sec. and (California.. to "If there sometimes inbarring is choose appeals utility."21 too. liberty.. Hare claims that it for to casesinwhich. On the other Sartorius tobemaking seems a much claim. 24 Sartorius.g. the "an Thus. governments. ofthe in circumstances case. Sartorius. ibid. governmental havegoodconsequences". 154.e.p. 12.MILL AND THE UTILITY OF LABOUR 67 of and We think there a conflict is between principlesliberty utility. can However.. 119. adequate safeguards.24 be Wenote Sartoriusnot that is presenting same of as the sort position Haredoes. RolfSartorius. although is logically possible imagine 21 22 23 A System Bk.pp. does notbar(where means 'bar' direct to his allows Rather. Gray that conflict between and is apparent.that The rightnessvarious inthe of can on act-utilitarian rules bebased the participation support such principle. allowing interferences such are. that says rules conduct in he that of such out mannerwhich in it "point the will least be to where ormeans not do exist analyzing actual time for the perilous act. cit. the that However.. agrees with a policy. might appeals utility might of and those casesinwhich principlesliberty utility conflict. Themain of isto is deal utility inprotecting that point OnLiberty show there a great of no if to However.Ch.Gray just surprises onebyclaiming this. the might either here. Sartorius be positions On theone might presenting oftwodifferent that sit and out be hand.. Butthey not allsupercede do at the (when propriety through circumstances the of going permit) a which course action utilityis scientific requisite framingrule seeing process for of [i. to attributes point Mill). the and justification be made on may may utilitarian issurely admits "one that Yet. such reasoning wrong.orwhere cannot ourjudgmentestimating we trust them. show theprinciple liberty that of should given be over principle utility. is there norealconflict. .23 then. So. instance.heis going Thus. surely obvious should allowed. onetorefrain making from direct to appeals utility. morality tocontain least ought granting conventional to which direct is of forms of (1) prohibit appeals utility. he is sincere this If in then the admission. that hand. utilitymaximized respecting is then is For. For. Sartorius canofcourse think specific in of instanceswhich interferencewould . have thereby they not utilitarian but eachcaseonitsdirect restructured radical tobe (ina merits. maximizing]from of before Sartorius's position. would no" "chilling ingeneral.

of is notesthat correctly (p. the principle of could be barred wherecircumstances suchan appeal(i. 41. highercultivation". Absolute prohibitions work(at least. time to the that principle of of and wereto conflict.e.) may the involved. Sartoriuswould stillbe claiming prohibit (For. thanHare's.g.Evenwhenour judgment goodand of and reliable. M. speaksas a utilitarian admits primacy theprinciple principle.That principle thePrinciple Utility.somehow. couldMill Grayarebothincorrect attributing ever accept Sartorius'ssuggestion thatappeals to the ultimate (i. of torture. 12. in thatliberty shouldbe preserved because there utility doingso is thinks. 1963). 7. is He Mill clearlybelievesthatthe preservation individual of liberty important. wrongly we allowanytorture all. will there that. eveninterferences areobjectively are justified. liberty ability showwhy that mustbe valuedaboveall Had Mill been someonewhosimply asserted liberty would simply (and manynon-libertarians) else.notin thewaythat Sartorius explains).. hisclaims particular types government torturing other not be paradoxical.e. we are too likely we all if at torture Hare is denying inreality.His greatness a defender liberty precisely tohis to be on must protected utilitarian grounds. be prohibited.Ch. then utilitarians rejecthis basic who the of of he However. cases ofconflict.e. in "theemphasis Mill'sjustificationfreedom.The paradoxariseswhenhe saysthatthereare cases in which that interference ofcourse is i. 16). and justified. .Sec. 27 26 A SystemLogic. thenHare wouldhaveto allowoccasional instances government to such government activities. which facets Lifeshould of all is be by is within Mill's utilitarianismthatnonjudged. Hare. which interferences which ofcoursejustified. reliable evaluations during even times progress of stress. For if government Sartoriusseems to have miscalculated utilities one had takenintoaccountthe disutility maximizes interference (even after utility of then increased by feelings insecurity). Cowling. Bk. even i. theinterference promoted (evenunwarranted) an cannot justified be without act-utilitarian frameis justified. wouldassert Mill the principles liberty utility conflicts between must upheld. yet government the is nonetheless interference oughtnotoccur. 6. of to take. pp. utility-maximizing to for that Yet Ten is correct chastise Cowling implying Millwas illiberal. If man wereto claim is muchstronger We notice thatSartorius's and to becomeable tomakeobjective. Illinois StateUniversity 25 andReason R. or of would then interference).If.68 MARK STRASSER For to torture would be justified.His genius inshowing apparent be utility lay why utility as of is due and liberty werenotreal. however.25 the to Our is be cases inwhich. oughtto prohibit torture. course. prisoner of ought be tortured.?4. judgment tooeasily us of cloudedfor tobe certain ourownobjectivity. for but and of argueseloquently convincingly thepreservation utility. p.we stillmustdenythe dictates our judgment prohibit government interference. permit principle utility) wherethereis sufficient and objectivity makea decision). of op. Ten and in of Nor to primacy theprinciple liberty. cit. goodness on any than one to that individual more is buton thefact a free likely anunfree tocontributethe Mill principle.25 pointsout thattherecan be onlyone ultimate course action of in there wouldbe no waytodecidewhich Otherwise. 43-44. we know it is justified.e.26The only"absoluteprohibition" actions maynotbe performed. Cowling on nor manmay haveinitsnatural neither itsintrinsic belief rightness. whononetheless liberty. Freedom (Oxford. in Had Sartorius beeninterested saying blanket that are prohibitions acceptmerely havethedegreeofcertainty for able because we never activities required certain (e.

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