Thursday, September 6, 2007

Glass Houses

"The example on which [F.H.] Bradley spends a good deal of time (do not commit adultery), is worth a little attention here. Used as it is as a criticism of [John Stuart] Mill, it may be thought to make a somewhat malicious allusion to Mill’s association with Harriet Taylor, at a time when her first husband was still alive. That would not be so bad if it were not for the grotesque hypocrisy involved in Bradley’s morally outraged posture on the subject. He may well have believed that Mill’s relations with Mrs. Taylor were literally adulterous, although this is now generally doubted. What is quite beyond doubt is that Bradley was himself an inveterate adulterer who for a long time spent a period each year with the wife of another man. His only moral achievement in this particular domain of human striving is that he managed to keep his misconduct from general notice. But it was not as champion of the principle 'do not be seen to commit adultery' that he strode forth so self-righteously against Mill.
--Anthony Quinton, Utilitarian Ethics (St. Martin’s, 1973), p. 96

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