Nietzsche on Mill’s Utilitarianism

15Feb08

May I be forgiven the discovery that all moral philosophy hitherto has been boring – and that ‘virtue’ has in my eyes been harmed by nothing more than…by this boringness of its advocates; in saying which, however I should not want to overlook their general utility. It is important that as few people as possible should think about morality as interesting – consequently it is very important that morality should not one day become interesting!… Consider for example… the English utilitarians…No new idea, no subtle expression… they all want English morality to prevail: inasmuch as mankind…or the ‘happiness of the greatest number’, no! the happiness of England would be best served; they would like with all their might to prove…that to strive after English happiness…is at the same time the true path of virtue… on earth…They are a modest and thoroughly mediocre species of man, these English utilitarians, [but insofar] as they are also boring one cannot think highly enough of their utility. One ought even to encourage them.

Beyond Good and Evil § 228

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3 Responses to “Nietzsche on Mill’s Utilitarianism”

  1. 1 elusivex

    as i remember Mill was an advocate for all values- he id3entified the way in which all cutures have created theri own standards for virtue—
    For me, Mill was not creatign propaganda but was vowing for conscious human evolution..

  2. 2 Alex Kervyn

    Mill is susceptible to Nietzsche’s critique in the same sense that Christianity is- Mill goes to great lengths to demonstrate that Utilitarianism is in fact a way to derive Christian moral principles. He does this fairly successfully in that “love thy neighbour” seems to be necessary to any functional version of Utilitarianism. However, without this “fellow-feeling”, as Mill calls it, Utilitarianism seems infeasible. Nietzsche attacks this whole idea rather ferociously in “Beyond Good and Evil’, as does Freud in “Civilisation and its Discontents”. Indeed this is why Freud dismisses Communism as impossible- he says that people can’t live together in harmony.

  3. 3 Tom

    I don’t think Nietzsche ever read Mill, otherwise he would have known that Mill distinguished “higher” pleasures from “lower” ones (see the “satisfied pig” quote). You can guess on your own that Mill’s higher pleasures weren’t “fashion and comfort,” which is what Nietzsche designates as “English happiness” (somewhere in BGE). Nietzsche’s critique of utilitarianism is continuous (more or less), I think, with his critique of every morality that puts the herd before the individual. For a good example of the connection between utilitarianism and Christian morality (“love thy neighbor”) see GS 21.

    I wonder what Nietzsche would make of the following Mill quotes:

    “The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.”

    “A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”


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