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The sacredness of utility

Is, then, the difference between the just and the Expedient a merely imaginary distinction? Have mankind been under a delusion in thinking that justice is a more sacred thing than policy, and that the latter ought only to be listened to after the former has been satisfied? By no means. The exposition we have given of the nature and origin of the sentiment, recognizes a real distinction; and no one of those who profess the most sublime contempt for the consequences of actions as an element in their morality, attaches more importance to the distinction than I do. While I dispute the pretensions of any theory which sets up an imaginary standard of justice not grounded on utility, I account the justice which is grounded on utility to be the chief part, and incomparably the most sacred and binding part, of all morality. [Utilitarianism, Chapter 5]

But where does “sacredness” enter the picture if it is admitted that utility does the moral work? Is Mill not conceding too much? Surely he is not saying that widespread delusion is justified on the basis of its utility? Or is he?

Posted by luno in Utilitarianism, Mill, J. S., Moral Theory (Thursday January 20, 2005 at 9:36 pm)

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