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Aristotelian Principle

The Aristotelian Principle—as articulated by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice—holds that:

Other things equal, human beings enjoy the exercise of their realized capacities (their innate or trained abilities), and this enjoyment increases the more that capacity is realized, or the greater its complexity.

Rawls' claim is that humans prefer activities that they are already good at and that for any two activities at which a person is equally proficient, she will prefer the one that requires more subtle discriminations. Mill has something like the Aristotelian Principle in mind when he writes:

For Mill, however, we value complexity because it leads to pleasure. But it is pleasure of a different sort than base pleasures—a qualitatively better sort of pleasure. (Hence qualitative hedonism.)

If you feel you've not gotten quite enough exposure to Mill, Rawls and the Aristotelian Principle, you can go read my dissertation.

(I hope you're not actually that bored.)

Referenced in

Annotating Research Online

There’s the copy of Mill's Utilitarianism from the period when I first realized that Rawls’ Aristotelian Principle might hold the key to making sense of Mill’s distinction between higher and lower pleasures.