What are Millian Qualitative Superiorities?

Prolegomena 7 (1):61-79 (2008)
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Abstract

In an article published in Prolegomena 2006, Christoph Schmidt-Petri has defended his interpretation and attacked mine of Mill’s idea that higher kinds of pleasure are superior in quality to lower kinds, regardless of quantity. Millian qualitative superiorities as I understand them are infinite superiorities. In this paper, I clarify my interpretation and show how Schmidt-Petri has misrepresented it and ignored the obvious textual support for it. As a result, he fails to understand how genuine Millian qualitative superiorities determine the novel structure of Mill’s pluralistic utilitarianism, in which a social code of justice that distributes equal rights and duties takes absolute priority over competing considerations. Schmidt-Petri’s own interpretation is a non-starter, because it does noteven recognize that Mill is talking about different kinds of pleasant feelings, such that the higher kinds are intrinsically more valuable than the lower. I conclude by outlining why my interpretation is free of any metaphysical commitment to the “essence” of pleasure

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Jonathan Riley
Tulane University

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