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John Stuart Mill and the Art of Life$
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Ben Eggleston, Dale Miller, and David Weinstein

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195381245

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195381245.001.0001

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Mill's Incubus

Mill's Incubus

(p.169) 7 Mill's Incubus
John Stuart Mill and the Art of Life

Elijah Millgram

Oxford University Press

John Stuart Mill's solution to the problem of freedom of the will distinguishes determinism from “moral unfreedom.” His psychology predicts that moral unfreedom will be a side effect of a life built around a single lexical priority. It also predicts that as a morally unfree agent's likes, dislikes, and concerns evolve, his activities will cease to be enjoyable or to matter to him. These predictions jointly underwrite Mill's understanding of his own “Mental Crisis.” They also make sense of the reconfigured utilitarian project he pursued after his recovery: Mill came to treat moral freedom as an objective of institutional reform. Finally, at the end of the System of Logic, in what was evidently meant as setup for and a segue to Utilitarianism, Mill argued that the Art of Life requires a first principle, and that “there can be but one.” Surprisingly, the best argument against that claim proves to be Mill's own life.

Keywords:   Mental Crisis, free will, determinism, practical necessity, higher pleasures, moral incapacity, decided preference criterion, John Stuart Mill, Benthamite utility, associationism

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