25 Nov

Was reading Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill and came across this passage:


Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs. They would not resign what they possess more than he for the most complete satisfaction of all the desires which they have in common with him. If they ever fancy they would, it is only in cases of unhappiness so extreme, that to escape from it they would exchange their lot for almost any other, however undesirable in their own eyes. 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. It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.”


One Response to “J.S.M. FTW”

  1. octobear November 29, 2010 at 8:27 pm #

    “he can never really wish to sink into what he feels to be a lower grade of existence”

    there is a meme on 4chan called ‘cannot unsee’ and there is so much information that fits into that category the factory farming system and how our meat gets to be meat comes to mind and once you know that and understand that you cant ever forget that these animals are tortured and it can be annoying to extend the metaphor to watch ignorant people choosing meat and not knowing about the suffering that causes but what JSM is saying is they are only content and their happiness is smaller than the less ignorant people who understand the dilemma. that is really important and i think the end goal of every action is happiness as Aristotle would say or at least it was but since our society is filled with materialism the end goal seems to have shifted much more to be contentedness– a scary notion. thinking again about commercials they are all about ‘happiness’ which really means contentedness right now which is gained through ownership of objects or social status (often reliant on ownership of objects) but rarely ever the bigger ideals like justice or freedom (a commercial that says that your time and money can be dedicated to justice seems absurd) and everything is quantified until you can literally add up the worth of a person which has actually been calculated and acted upon by universal health coverage. it is $129,000*. it is a fool satisfied.

    * http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1808049,00.html

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s