Deleuze’s Repetitions: Mill’s Ethics of Capacities

Traditionally, Mill is understood to be the originator of the sophisticated form of utilitarianism that foregrounds the quality rather than the quantity of happiness produced through human action. Mill’s is one of the most influential moral theories of our time, issuing in a plurality of consequentialist positions. On the other hand, I argue that Mill defends at least one alternative strand of moral thinking in his work. Rather than highlighting the normative dimensions of the consequences of our actions, Mill often explores the value of the development of one’s individuality. He explains this ethical development in terms of the actualization of various singular capacities. In this paper, I use Deleuze’s concept of repetition to uncover Mill’s alternative moral theory beyond utilitarianism, as well as outline its strengths. I claim that, when properly understood, Mill’s ethics of capacities provides a serious antidote to the ubiquity of relativism and the pitfalls of nihilism.

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