The Fear of Society

  • Mary Midgley


Is Mill’s hope that individual and public interests will converge a justified one? It is, of course, inevitably rather a distant hope. He argues well for it, yet the force and fire of his first point tend to put his second one in the shade. Here and now, this individual is interested in doing what he or she wants to do, and may not care at all whether doing it will, even in the very longest run, benefit society. Ought this individual to be asked to care? Is there anything faulty about a purely self-absorbed refusal to care? Or again, even if the individual does care, is it certain that what he or she finds good will also seem good to society? Is there any reason why the individual should take any notice of outside standards at all? Mill does not suggest that there is, and this seems to be the point at which modern Western individualism splits off from most other moralities.


Distant Hope Benefit Society Romantic Ideal Essential Lesson Unprecedented Quality 
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© Mary Midgley 1993

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  • Mary Midgley

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