J.S. Mill and the value of utility

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The concept of utility, which stood at the heart of J. S. Mill's utilitarian moral philosophy, played only a minor role in his account of economics. The economic idea of (individual) utility, as is well known, neither inspired Mill directly nor excited his attention when developed in the work of other economists. The starting point of this article is thus the question of just why was Mill so interested in utility as a seminal concept of moral philosophy but seemingly indifferent to (individual) utility as an economic concept. I argue that Mill's determination to strengthen and enrich the concept of utility in his moral philosophy ironically largely precluded any development within his political economy of an idea of utility related to a psychological effect within the individual mind; in particular, this is due to the potential of such an interpretation to create an unwelcome obstacle in his struggle with the Romantic critics of utilitarianism.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)231-246
Number of pages16
JournalHistory of Political Economy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics


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