John Stuart Mill’s Approach and Philosophy of ValuesJune 27, 2021
The basis of Mill’s theory of value is the idea that “the only desirable thing is happiness”, as we have stated above.
For this reason, if there is a value for him, it can only be happiness, other than that, it is not possible to talk about any value for Mill. But Mill does not ignore the problem posed in the above question. He believes it is unreasonable to deny that people pursue virtues other than happiness. Therefore, our thinker accepts that people desire and pursue things other than happiness. For example, Mill considers an individual’s virtue, health, power, fame, etc. He admits that he desires things and goes after them.
However, according to him, the individual goes after them not because they are an alternative goal to happiness, but because they are the means that lead to happiness, in other words, because the individual hopes to be happy by obtaining them. Because, according to him, these appear as desirable things for a further purpose, namely happiness, not for themselves. However, according to Mill, happiness is desired as an end in itself, not for a further purpose.
For this reason, Mill does not see virtues as the natural and essential components of happiness, but sees them as suitable to be components of happiness. That is, although a virtue is initially thought of as a tool that leads to happiness, it is later perceived by the individual as a component of the goal. Take, for example, the love of money. In the beginning, money has no value for the individual other than the value of the goods he buys, so it is not desired for himself. But then money gradually begins to be perceived as a component of the concept of happiness.
According to Mill, after this stage, money becomes the goal for the individual. Now the individual is happy to have money himself, or rather, according to Mill, he thinks himself happy. Mill argues that the tool’s being an end results from the common denominator between the tool and the tool. Accordingly, once this common denominator is established by the individual, virtue itself begins to be regarded as good. Based on this idea, Mill accepts that there are some obstacles in front of the acceptance of happiness as the ultimate goal by the moral agent, and states that the underlying problem of these obstacles is that the moral agent cannot separate the means that lead him to happiness from the goal.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook; Sakarya University Faculty of Theology Journal, Volume: XV, Issue: 28 (2013/2)