First Short Paper (2 1⁄2 to 3 pages, typed, double-spaced. Due on Thursday, March 3
In chapter IV of Utilitarianism, Mill finally gets down to the work of justifying his
main thesis: that pleasure and the absence of pain are valuable in and of themselves, and
that they are they only things which are valuable in this way. The argument is presented
in two parts that correspond to each half of his thesis. Reconstruct the second part of the
argument where Mill tries to show that virtue is good only insofar as it is a part of
happiness or a means to happiness. Mill develops an analogy between money and virtue
in order to show that virtue is no exception to his general thesis that happiness is the only
thing good for its own sake.
Before writing the paper, construct a dialogue map of the key questions, answers and
reasons pro and con that pertain to Mill’s thesis (15 nodes or less). Work slowly and
carefully as you identify each of the main premises and then put them in an order that
makes the best sense of the argument as a whole. Try to add any of the key premises that
are necessary for the success of the argument, including those that are developed earlier
as well as those that are suppressed. Be sure to focus on his argument concerning virtue.
The argument concerning the will involves complications that we will deal with later
when we read Kant’s Grounding.
Having reconstructed the main premises in Mill’s argument that happiness is the only
thing good for its own sake, explain how a philosopher (such as Socrates) might object to
one of the points in Mill’s argument. Identify what you consider to be a significant
weakness in one of the premises or in one of the inferences leading up to the conclusion,
clarify the point and explain how the objection works. Finally, develop a response to the
objection on Mill’s behalf and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the objection and
My suggestion that is that you spend roughly 1 1⁄2 pages reconstructing Mill’s
argument, and then 3⁄4 of a page developing the objection and 3⁄4 of a page on the
response to the objection. If you quote from any text, then provide page references. If you
draw on secondary sources, then you must cite the source. Any standard form of citation
will due, but I recommend the Chicago Manual of Style for philosophy papers. The
manual contains a very detailed guide for editing papers, and I recommend that you take
a look and see if it might help you improve your writing skills. In addition to this
standard manual, there is also a short guide to writing philosophy papers that is provided
in a link on the Learn site.
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