Mill’s Essay: Happiness Is The Only Intrinsic Good

I will outline why Mill believes that happiness is the only intrinsic good, raise a problem with his argument, explain why it is a problem by referring to the argument from multiple harms, and how it showcases faults of hedonism. According to Mill, happiness is the only thing that is intrinsically valuable. This theory is known as hedonism, and claims that being happy is mandatory and beneficial for living a good life. In this scenario, happiness is actually defined as the existence of pleasure and absence of pain.

Mill believes that happiness is the only intrinsic good because “everything else is valuable only to the extent that it makes us happy” (Fund. of Ethics, 24. ) But Mill’s central principle of morality also claims that actions are right as long as they intend to promote happiness. And things are intrinsically bad to the extent that they would inflict pain or diminish happiness. If this view is correct, it does not allow room to be argued against moral values as they would be nonexistent.

As hedonism does directly come from the Greek word hedone meaning pleasure, it is important to understand the kind of pleasure hedonists aspire to experience. There are two kinds of pleasure: physical pleasure and attitudinal pleasure. It is much easier to distinguish the two by associating physical pleasure with stimulation of your five senses, and attitudinal pleasure with “positive attitude of enjoyment. ” (Fund. of Ethics, 24) A main problem that can be raised against hedonism is the argument from multiple harms.

This argument states that “If hedonism is true, then you can be harmed by something only because it saddens you” (Fund of Ethics, 41. ) While this premise is accurate, we could definitely imagine at least one scenario where we might be harmed but it is not directly caused by our unhappiness. I will support this counter argument with the second premise that states “You can be harmed in other ways. ” (Fund of Ethics, 41. ) For example, imagine someone who drinks alcohol with the intention of feeling pleasure or happiness in return. Now, let’s say that said person has been doing this their entire adult life and becomes addicted to alcohol.

That person can be harmed by their addiction in other ways than just being un happy, or without pleasure. This is enough to prove that hedonism is in fact false. This counter argument points out just one of hedonism’s flaws, and showcases that maybe unhappiness could most definitely be triggered by something other than happiness lost. When you consider that argument, it just continues to showcase the faults in following hedonism. Hedonism seems like a great theory at first because we are able to combine everything we value into one thing: pleasure.

But in this world, there is an incredible variety of pleasures and there’s no justified relationship between them, or even how each one works alone, the argument continues to weaken. Finally, I showed that hedonism seems to have a promising theory on the surface but can easily be picked apart when counter arguments are introduced. Nozick’s View I will outline the basic steps of Nozick’s argument that hedonism is wrong by discussing his counter arguments against hedonism, and explaining what Nozick believes is intrinsically valuable.

According to Nozick, hedonism is wrong when it claims that happiness is the only intrinsically valuable thing. He supports this claim by imagining being able to choose between everyday reality, and a preferable simulated reality where any experiences we could desire or find pleasurable would happen. By introducing this idea of an altered reality, also known as his Experience Machine, he is able to provide supporting claims for his view. Nozick believes that if happiness were the only intrinsic value, people would have a great reason to enter his controlled, alternate reality.

By observing people’s hesitations on entering the experience machine, Nozick is further able to provide proof on that supports his argument of why hedonism is false. Nozick provides us with three reasons not to plug into the machine. 1) We value actually doing certain things, and just having the feeling of doing them would not be sufficient. “It is only because we first want to do the actions that we want the experiences of doing them. ” (Nozick, 43) 2) We value being a certain type of person. “Someone floating in a tank is an indeterminate blob. (Nozick, 43) 3)

Plugging into an experience machine limits us to a man-made reality, and this in part limits what we create in our lives… “There is no actual contact with any deeper reality, though the experience of it can be simulated. ” (Nozick, 43) Nozick states that there are definitely other elements of reality we may strive for, and by striving for these elements, we are willing to put our happiness and pleasure at stake. He suggests that most desire a level of pleasure that increases. An increasing level of pleasure is much more appealing to us rather than a level of pleasure that tends to decrease.

This would hold true even if in the end, we generally were able to experience the same amount of happiness. If all that mattered to us was pleasure, then we would want to plug into the experience machine. However, we would not want plug-in. Which just solidifies that there are things that matter to us besides our general pleasure. In regard to hedonism, happiness may be seen as essential, but it not the only factor. In this sense, it is either not intrinsically valuable OR it is one among a number of intrinsically valuable things.

When viewing hedonism from Nozick’s perspective, it is easy to see that getting what you want may not be as essential to having a good life as you were made to believe under hedonism’s perspective. Nozick believes that in order to lead a good life, you need to recognize the existence of objective values. Autonomy, knowledge, and happiness are just a few possible examples of objectively valuable things. These are further proof that happiness isn’t the only intrinsically valuable thing, as these things would hold value regardless of how we felt about them.