Social Morality in Mill

In Gerald Gaus & Piers Turner (eds.), Public Reason in Political Philosophy: Classic Sources and Contemporary Commentaries. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 375-400 (2017)
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A leading classical utilitarian, John Stuart Mill is an unlikely contributor to the public reason tradition in political philosophy. To hold that social rules or political institutions are justified by their contribution to overall happiness is to deny that they are justified by their being the object of consensus or convergence among all those holding qualified moral or political viewpoints. In this chapter, I explore the surprising ways in which Mill nevertheless works to accommodate the problems and insights of the public reason tradition, and the extent to which he makes arguments that can help those working within that tradition. Mill’s utilitarian theory incorporates the claim that the demands of social life require a publicly accepted set of normative expectations to govern judgments about when one has met one’s obligations and, relatedly, about the appropriateness of blame or punishment.
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