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Lecture

HUMA 1825 Note 14.docx

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Department
Humanities
Course
HUMA 1825
Professor
Neil Braganza
Semester
Winter

Description
HUMA 1825 Note 14 John Stuart Mill - Think liberty from the state’s ability to intrude in a subject’s liberty - What are the parameters of state interference? What is the value of liberty? What does Mill mean by liberty and why does he value freedom of expression and freedom of speech o He’s a utilitarian which means he’s not going to defend liberty, expression or speech via a moral theory o Liberty is not a good onto itself; speech is not a good onto itself, etc.  These things are valuable by virtue of their consequences  What’s interesting is that Mill reforms a version of utilitarianism that we looked at earlier in the course  He introduces a more ancient concept of human nature - When he talks of liberty/speech/expression what he’s presenting is a vision of human nature that has capacities to develop, learn, and progress - What threatens those capacities? o One: it’s the state. Specifically, the ability of elite groups (small minorities) imposing their will upon the individual. o Two: the ability of the majority to legislate morality. This amounts to Mill as the threat of conformity: the dolling of creativity  Why is creativity important? Mill says that it and the free range of discussion amounts to enlightenment: the development in the sciences, philosophy, and the notion of public policy. - Therefore, the threat to individual liberty is two fold: the use of state power to forward the interests of special interests or minority elite groups at the expense of the individual. Also, because of the expanding enterprise of democracy, the ability of the masses to utilize the state as an instrument of moral legislation - Thesis of today’s lecture: o When discussing liberty for Mill, to defend liberty is to defend the individual. o Consider the historical development to liberal democracy Mill’s Reform of Utilitarianism - Consider early utilitarianism (Bentham and James Mill) o They attempted to put liberalism (legislation and the way the laws were administered) on a more scientific and rational basis. o Their theory is founded on the notion of consequences  Something is good and worth pursuing if its consequence is happiness or pleasure. o Bentham and Mill Sr. used the theory of utilitarianism to defend the use value of liberty, freedom, and legal rights. o They put aside the question of morality of these things, ideas, and practices. o They argued that people should be free to live as they please. There is however one qualification: you are free so long as you are not interfering with the liberty of others.  Therefore, liberty is good because of its consequences (effects)  It is useful because it increases general happiness. o This concept is tricky because what we have to unpack is what the utilitarians mean by “happiness”.  For Bentham and Mill Sr. happiness is not telos, not the pursuit of the moral good, instead it is such: it is the excess quantity of pleasure over pain.  This means that whatever gives you pleasure is as valuable as whatever gives someone else pleasure. There is no inherent hierarchy of pleasure. One pleasure is as good as the other  As humans, we all pursue pleasure and we avoid pain. - There is a general proposition: the only legitimate standard of what was good for any society is this: the greatest happiness of the greatest number. - This isn’t a moral vision of a utopian society; it’s a practical vision of taking people as they are, not as they ought to be. o The idea here is that the state cannot legitimately impose upon you some vision of the good. - Mill Sr. and Bentham wanted to create a science of human motivation (once we understood this, then we can create policies and regulations that fit this model) o What is the force responsible for how we behave? The answer is the pursuit of pleasure. o What vision of human nature are the utilitarians forwarding?  People are rational, autonomous creatures that seek to maximize pleasure.  The implication is that pleasure, not morality, is the only standard by which we can evaluate behaviour. - They were attempting to separate the notion of law and morality: o For Bentham the Judicial systems were barbaric. o Therefore, the history of correction discusses the history of general deterrence  If you are caught stealing something, the act isn’t immoral. They act is your miscalculation of the criminal act  The rational choice if to cut your hands of o Therefore, if you enjoy stealing, then maybe the only way to offset that pleasure and motivation would be to give you greater pain than pleasure. - The sole objective of the law in its administration and legislation is to increase pleasure and to prevent pain. o Law must advance the greatest good of the greatest number in order to advance general happiness and facilitate a society that is, at the very least, well ordered  Leaving people to do as they please in the law silence: to compete in the marketplace, to pursue private pleasures, etc. - The point is: all other views of state interference, specifically moral justifications, are unacceptable. - John Stuart Mill: he maintains the essential tenants, he argues against state interference and individual liberty with a minor distinction: o He believes that Bentham and Mill Sr. had a very limited notion of human nature and what we’re capable of doing o The early utilitarian concept of happiness reduced the human experience.  By nutshelling us all as greedy, vain o He suggested that there are some pleasures that are superior to other pleasures. Not all pleasures are the same.  For him, some pleasures contribute to happiness in ways that cannot be measures  He split pleasure into two groups:  Lower pleasures: This is what the early utilitarians were concerned with o Any pursuit that provides you with immediate gratifications o This is associated with short-term pleasures o Consider Aristotle.  Lower pleasures feed appetite  Higher pleasures speak about what drives us forward.  They account for advances in philosophy, science, etc. o Therefore, the higher pleasures are our long- term interests. o At the end of the day, Mill is a utilitarian, so he cannot envision a government imposing on you.  He’s holding out for the possibility that with enough time and education that the higher pleasures are worthy of pursuing  In the absence of social engineering all that Mill can do is argue against coercion (using the state to legislate a dull vision of morality, to stifle the individual)  He wants to protect the individual by protecting the state  He wants to protect the state against those who would use it for oppression o He wants to make sure that people have the power to discuss things that are disgusting, unpopular or unwanted  Unless your speech are causing direct (causal connection established) the state has no justification in limiting expression (it’s his master thesis)  Humans have capacities beyond their bodily urges. - Mill suggests that sometimes we are not the best judges of our own long- term self-interest. o Outside of establishing a political program that will persuade people in a long-term goal?  We must protect the individual from conformity. - How do we do this? o We have to keep common interests, common values and common morality outside of legislation.  This isn’t that controversial, but if we look at history what Mill is talking about is the tension between liberalism (priority of individual) and democracy (the expanding enterprise of the ability of the majority to legislate in their interest) o He’s worried about that democracy in itself is expanding (more people have the right to determine themselves through legislations, elections, etc.) o What’s interesting is that Mill sees this as inevitable (it has to happen)  The great majority of people are of a particular class (newly- minted working class) whose lives are miserable  The state h
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