a philosophy blog

Equal but…

Mill and I gloss Bentham’s dictum, “everybody to count for one, nobody for more than one”:

All persons are deemed to have a right to equality of treatment, except when some recognized social expediency requires the reverse. And hence all social inequalities which have ceased to be considered expedient, assume the character not of simple inexpediency, but of injustice, and appear so tyrannical, that people are apt to wonder how they ever could have been tolerated—forgetful that they themselves perhaps tolerate other inequalities under an equally mistaken notion of expediency, the correction of which would make that which they approve seem quite as monstrous as what they have at last learnt to condemn. The entire history of social improvement has been a series of transitions, by which one custom or institution after another, from being a supposed primary necessity of social existence, has passed into the rank of a universally stigmatized injustice and tyranny. So it has been with the distinctions of slaves and freemen, nobles and serfs, patricians and plebeians; and so it will be, and in part already is, with the aristocracies of color, race, and sex. [Utilitarianism, Chapter 5]

… and species, and perhaps, someday, embodiment—when we cease to associate conscious reason with the purely contingent envelope of flesh and blood. There will be, at this point, some serious problems with the sentience requirement of utility. We will have to conceive truly amazing pains and pleasures of the sort that Kant, from his balloon, may have glimpsed in the offing …

Posted by luno in Utilitarianism, Mill, J. S., Moral Theory (Thursday January 20, 2005 at 9:57 pm)

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