Mill’s Utilitarianism first appeared as a series of articles in Fraser’s Magazine in the latter part of 1861. Two years later these were republished as a book. For the next forty years, until the publication in 1903 of G. E. Moore’s Principia Ethica, they remained the authoritative exposition of a major option in ethical theory and attracted serious criticism as such. Moore’s examination of Mill’s doctrine had the effect, for reasons it is now not easy to discern, of converting utilitarianism, in the view of prevailing philosophical opinion, into an exemplary tissue of error. It was not until the widespread rejection of Moore’s antinaturalism in the last couple of decades that Mill’s doctrine recovered its status as a genuine theoretical possibility and, with this, came to receive once again the kind of criticism that does not presuppose, from the outset, that it is fundamentally misguided.
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