This essay argues, flouting paradox, that Mill was a utilitarian but not a consequentialist. First, it contends that there is logical space for a view that deserves to be called utilitarian despite its rejection of consequentialism; second, that this logical space is, in fact, occupied by John Stuart Mill. The key to understanding Mill's unorthodox utilitarianism and the role it plays in his moral philosophy is to appreciate his sentimentalist metaethics—especially his account of wrongness in terms of fitting guilt and resentment. Mill recognizes a fundamental moral asymmetry between the agent and others, which conflicts intractably with a presupposition of consequentialism. This allows him to differentiate three potentially conflicting evaluative spheres: morality, prudence, and aesthetics. This essay's account of Mill's utilitarianism coheres with his defense of individual liberty and his embrace of supererogation, both of which elude traditional interpretations.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| April 01 2008
Utilitarianism without Consequentialism: The Case of John Stuart Mill
The Philosophical Review (2008) 117 (2): 159–191.
Daniel Jacobson; Utilitarianism without Consequentialism: The Case of John Stuart Mill. The Philosophical Review 1 April 2008; 117 (2): 159–191. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00318108-2007-035
Download citation file:
Don't already have an account? Register
You could not be signed in. Please check your email address / username and password and try again.
Could not validate captcha. Please try again.
Sign in via your InstitutionSign In