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The conference was completed over the two days with the presentation of 8 papers of high standard. Time was allotted for a selected respondent to each paper followed by questions and discussion.

Conference, Philosophy of Ethics: 27-29 May 2011 [Completed]

"Better to be an unhappy man than a happy pig". Was Mill right?

Key note address:
Timothy Chappell
, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Ethics Centre, The Open University

Program of Speakers and Journal Download

See the Conference Program

Purchase the Conference issues of the Journal with submitted papers for immediate download

Parmenideum Journal May 2011

Parmenideum Journal May 2011

John Stuart Mill provides a detailed argument as to why unhappiness as a human is preferable to the happiness of the most satisfied “beast”, concluding that

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both sides.

Utilitarianism (1861) Ch.II.

Participation and papers are invited by all those interested in the themes broached by the above conclusion and the rather difficult question it raises: is it actually better to be an unhappy human than a happy pig? One response would be ask the pig, but according to Mill, and probably most of us would agree with him, even if the pig could communicate, anything he would have to say on the matter would be invalid. Though it has been known that humans can live and act like pigs, pigs have never been known to live like humans and therefore can have no conception of what the condition of being a human, whether satisfied or dissatisfied, is like.

Papers on related themes, such as the substance and purpose of morality; the nature and utility of happiness; the comparative value of happiness and contentment as posed by Mill; and indeed the question of why a human who experiences extreme unhappiness would not wish for the ignorance of a pig or a fool, are welcome. Papers will be reviewed and published in the Parmenideum Journal. Deadline for papers and abstracts for inclusion in the conference issue of the journal, 30 th April 2011. Submissions are welcomed after this time, but will be published in the subsequent issue.

The Parmenideum periodically holds “philosophy under the olives” venues, both as formal conferences and informal encounters at the southern Italian town of Ascea in the Cilento, close to the archaeological ruins of the Greek settlement of Elea, once home to the pre-Socratics Parmenides and Zeno. The Eleatic school is arguably the originator of not just Western philosophy, but also Western science. If Alfred Whitehead considered all of Western philosophy “a series of footnotes to Plato”, it could be argued that Plato is a series of footnotes to Parmenides.

Weather permitting, some of the talks are delivered at the archaeological ruins, providing an ideal setting for the discussion and exploration of philosophical issues. The talks and discussions are held in English.

Travel to Ascea is straightforward by car; or by direct train from either Rome or Naples without need for connections, and delegates are met at the station on arrival. Accommodation can be arranged at a number of agriturismo establishments (Italian country B&Bs) or at residential apartments and hotels in the area, many of which are searchable via the internet. Details of accommodation can be found here and directions for travel from Rome and Naples airports here.

There is a nominal registration fee of €40 per delegate. For further details and to register, or for language assistance when booking accommodation and travel, the Parmenideum is pleased to help.

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Contact: Lars Aagaard-Mogensen or Habeeb Marouf


Tel: +39 329 408 4127 / +44 (0)203 286 1857

"He who has a joyous mind possesses all the splendors he appears to be wanting." Ludvig Holberg Epistola CXCVII More >

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