Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bullshit Or Not: JS Mill Edition

There's an old sketch film called Amazon Women on the Moon and one of the bits is a parody of the old Leonard Nimoy show, In Search Of... called, Bullshit or Not? with the tagline "Bullshit or not? You decide." So I've stolen it for an occasional series of posts.

This is a classic quotation from John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism:

Whoever supposes that this preference takes place at a sacrifice of happiness—that the superior being, in anything like equal circumstances, is not happier than the inferior—confounds the two very different ideas, of happiness, and content. It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.
So are the pleasures of the mind really superior to those of the body? Would you rather be a dissatisfied Socrates or a happy pig? Feel free to leave one word comments, "bullshit" or "not" or to explain your position in as much depth as you'd like, but I'd love to hear which way most of you are leaning.