QUESTION 1: What is the will in Mill, and how is it related to desire? Explain Mill's definition of the will. What does it mean when Mill says the utilitarian morality is grounded in our desires and sentiments? Does Mill see the will as a good in itself? What is the relationship between the will and our sensual desires?
"Will," says Mill, "is the child of desire, and passes out of the dominion of its parent only to come under that of habit" (60-61). Desire for something presupposes that the thing will produce pleasure and not pain. Will is for Mill "the active phenomenon," while desire is "the state of passive sensibility" (59). The will can be cultivated and shaped by habit to be virtuous. It is not presumed to be "intrinsically good" but it is "a means to good" (61): "How can the will to be virtuous, where it does not exist in sufficient force, be implanted or awakened? Only by making the person desire virtue--by making him think of it in a pleasurable light, or of its absence in a painful one" (60).
When Mill says that utilitarian morality is grounded in desires and sentiments, he links a "natural sentiment" for general happiness in society to a "desire to be in unity with our fellow creatures" (46). He describes the "social state" of mankind as natural and necessary, much to be preferred to the state of "savage independence" (47) or a noncooperative and competitive situation. Social organization is a way of distributing happiness "as the ethical standard" (46).
Mill's strategy in looking at how the greatest social pleasure is achieved is to look at how the individual arrives at a perception of such pleasure. He assigns different values or categories to different pleasures, citing "difference of quality in pleasures" based on the choice between two available pleasures of the one that is, "by those who are completely acquainted with both, placed so far above the other that they prefer it, even though...