Individuality, Happiness and the Higher Pleasures
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Individuality, Happiness and the Higher Pleasures book
Having sketched these links in the Doctrine of Liberty, we are left with a number of puzzles. We need to know how autonomous choice connects in Mill’s theory with the development of individuality and the achievement of the higher pleasures, and only then can we command a view of the ways in which the theory of the higher pleasures supports the Doctrine of Liberty. Our task is not an easy one for a number of reasons. Despite his inclination to self-criticism, Mill was rarely explicit about the basic notions deployed in his arguments, and it is rare to come across any formal definition of the terms he employs. Further, as I have noted already, ‘autonomy’ is not a term he employs himself, and I need to support my claim that a conception of autonomous choice is, in fact, central to the argument of On Liberty. It is unavoidable that I will use terms and distinctions that would have seemed foreign to Mill, and inevitable that my interpretation must be in the nature of a frankly conjectural reconstruction rather than a literal rendition of Mill’s argument. Nevertheless, though it will involve imposing on Mill’s writings a terminology that would be unfamiliar to him, I shall claim that it reflects and expresses Mill’s underlying commitments and concerns better than any other we have currently at our disposal. The test of its efficacy can only be in whether it yields a plausible and coherent view of Mill’s argument. How, then, does Mill’s conception of happiness support the Doctrine of Liberty?