Happiness Does Not Consist in Pleasure

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jw

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J.H. Thornwell (Collected Writings, vol. 2, p. 465):

How coarse and degrading, by the side of this doctrine, do those views of Happiness appear which make it consist in pleasure! which, instead of setting man upon the improvement of himself, the perfection of his nature and the expansion of his energies in communion with God, send him in quest of the beggarly elements of earth, which all are to perish in the using! There cannot be a greater obstruction to the pursuit of real happiness than the love of pleasure. It relaxes and debilitates the mind, destroys the tone of the spirit, superinduces languor upon all the faculties; it is the grave of energy. Hence is that of Scripture: She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. If Happiness is an adumbration of the blessedness of God—and it must be so—if it is the glory of man to bear the image of God, the whole subject is manifestly degraded when it is reduced to the analogy of the enjoyment of a brute.​
 

jw

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I wonder if Thornwell is targeting Bentham. I'm almost certain he is. Probably John Stuart Mill as well.
I've not read much further yet, but his first point of reference in this context is William Paley's Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy.
 

RamistThomist

Puritanboard Clerk
I've not read much further yet, but his first point of reference in this context is William Paley's Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy.

The Bentham/Mill maxim is that a moral good is whatever produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Happiness is then defined as a "hedon," a unit of pleasure. Yes, that's silly but that's utilitarianism. I do wonder, though, what Paley's position would have been.
 
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