Front Page Titles (by Subject) Mill, Freedom, and Happiness - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3
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Mill, Freedom, and Happiness - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1979, vol. 2, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Mill, Freedom, and Happiness
“Freedom and Happiness in Mill's Defense of Liberty.” Philosophical Quarterly 28 (October 1978): 325–338.
John Stuart Mill's defense of personal freedom in his essay On Liberty has drawn the criticism that it is cogent only in so far as it is not utilitarian. The cornerstone of Mill's argument for individual liberty is the “harm principle”: that we may rightly use power against a person only to prevent harm to others (the person's own physical or moral good does not constitute a sufficient warrant for the use of force. Yet, one could ask how an ethical system based solely on the principle of utility could dissuade a member of society from making someone happier than he could make himself when left to his own devices.
Replying to this objection, Mill seems to regard Liberty as an end to be pursued for its own sake. Infringements upon personal freedom would thus constitute the violation of an absolute principle. This, however, would contradict Mill's view (stated in Utilitarianism) that happiness is the only ethical absolute.
The authors assert that this apparent contradiction confuses the meaning of the word “happiness” in Mill's work. Mill abetted this confusion by not clearly distinguishing his two basic uses of the term.
Mill's position becomes a contradictory one if happiness is understood as a simple mental state, consisting of feelings of contentment and well-being. Given this meaning, the pursuit of liberty might indeed conflict with one's happiness—as in the example of the advocates of free speech in the Soviet Union. This simple, monistic view of happiness does in fact appear in Mill's work. However, this notion must not be confused with the idea of happiness as an ethical absolute or as an end in itself. Here, Mill takes a composite view. Happiness consists of various goods such as health, freedom, lack of pain, poetry, etc. These diverse goods are naturally desirable as means to the end of happiness. In Mill's view, however, they are also part of that end, and, as such, they are desirable in and of themselves. Thus, the view that liberty is intrinsically desirable does not contradict the idea that only happiness is to be desired as an end in itself. Happiness is a composite of intrinsically desirable goods.
Nevertheless, this intrinsic view of desirable goods seems to conflict with the essential nature of Mill's utilitarianism, namely that truths are to be discovered within the confines of the contingent world. Mill's defenders have retorted that, when he speaks of various goods as ends in themselves, what he really believes to be desirable as an end is some single, natural principle to which all subsidiary “goods” Pleasure, as a mental state, has often been chosen as the most plausible candidate for this ultimately desirable state.
In fact, Mill does explicitly declare that certain mental states are intrinsically desirable and that all have at least one thing in common: they are all states of happiness or pleasure. That is not to say, however, that only mental states constitute the state of pleasure.
For Mill, pleasure consists not only of the feelings produced by certain activities. It also comprises the objects of these activities and the activities themselves. Thus, in Mill's own words, music, health, poetry, and virtue “are desired and desirable in and for themselves; besides being means, they are part of the end.”
Since the utilitarian good is not monistic, the ranking problems of pluralistic ethical theories immediately arise. For example, is justice or freedom to be more highly prized? In Chapter 4 of Utilitarianism, Mill supplies an embryonic response to this problem. Higher pleasures are to be distinguished from lower ones by “competent judges”—those who have experienced both. Mill's pluralistic ethical position effectively gives the lie to the old charge that utilitarianism, like epicureanism, is a theory fit only for swine.