Cleveland: Cambridge University Press. Edited by Geraint Williams (1863)
Reissued here in its corrected second edition of 1864, this essay by John Stuart Mill argues for a utilitarian theory of morality. Originally printed as a series of three articles in Fraser's Magazine in 1861, the work sought to refine the 'greatest happiness' principle that had been championed by Jeremy Bentham, defending it from common criticisms, and offering a justification of its validity. Following Bentham, Mill holds that actions can be judged as right or wrong depending on whether they promote happiness or 'the reverse of happiness'. Although attracted by Bentham's consequentialist framework based on empirical evidence rather than intuition, Mill separates happiness into 'higher' and 'lower' pleasures, arguing for a weighted system of measurement when making and judging decisions. Dissected and debated since its first appearance, the essay is Mill's key discussion on the topic and remains a fundamental text in the study of ethics.