The conventional reading of Mill as a maximizing act-consequentialist takes the official statement of the Greatest Happiness Principle, in Utilitarianism 2.2, to specify his own moral theory. Although many commentators have noted the substantial evidence that Mill was no ordinary consequentialist, no other interpretation has won general acceptance. In particular, the rule-utilitarian readings advanced by J. O. Urmson and David Lyons have been eclipsed by more sophisticated act-utilitarian readings than those Urmson justly criticized. This is largely because the discussion in Chapter 2 is widely taken to be authoritative; yet that discussion is idiosyncratic, at least superficially inconsistent, and peculiarly amenable to the most familiar and orthodox form of utilitarianism. My primary foil here will be Roger Crisp, who has recently published a fine scholarly edition of Utilitarianism for the Oxford Philosophical Texts series, as well as a guidebook to the work. According to Crisp, Utilitarianism "was clearly intended to be the summation, and defense, of [Mill's] thoughts on the doctrine which provided the foundation for his views." And Crisp takes 2.2 as his primary evidence for explicating Mill's theory of both the good and the right. Furthermore, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord presupposes the central claim of this approach in an excellent recent discussion of tangentially related issues. Sayre-McCord states, in passing and without argument, that "according to [Mill's] standard of conduct, an agent has performed the right act if and only if that act is among the agent's best available options. To have taken any less than the best available option is, Mill thinks, to have performed the wrong act." This is precisely the conventional interpretation of Mill's moral theory, behind which a scholarly consensus has emerged. 0
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