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Original scientific paper

What are Millian Qualitative Superiorities?

Jonathan Riley ; Tulane University – Department of Philosophy, New Orleans, USA

Full text: english pdf 315 Kb

page 61-79

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In an article published in Prolegomena 2006, Christoph Schmidt-Petri has defended his interpretation and attacked mine of Mill’s idea that higher kinds of pleasure are superior in quality to lower kinds, regardless of quantity. Millian qualitative superiorities as I understand them are infinite superiorities. In this paper, I clarify my interpretation and show how Schmidt-Petri has misrepresented it and ignored the obvious textual support for it. As a result, he fails to understand how genuine Millian qualitative superiorities determine the novel structure of Mill’s pluralistic utilitarianism, in which a social code of justice that distributes equal rights and duties takes absolute priority over competing considerations. Schmidt-Petri’s own interpretation is a non-starter, because it does noteven recognize that Mill is talking about different kinds of pleasant feelings, such that the higher kinds are intrinsically more valuable than the lower. I conclude by outlining why my interpretation is free of any metaphysical commitment to the “essence” of pleasure.


Essence, hedonism, higher and lower pleasure, infinite superiority, justice, lexical hierarchy, Mill, security, utilitarianism

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