Mill uses the concept of "first principles" and foundations of morality throughout his essay. With this notion, Mill asserts that it is not enough simply to characterize actions as good or evil; rather, there must be something about these actions that gives them a moral nature, and a reason why terms like "good" and "evil" have such resonance in the first place. The starting point for Mill's philosophy is this quandary of our culture: that people have not been able to agree about what this essential principle of morality is, or why it is so special. He explains that his essay will be an attempt to identify this foundation once and for all--namely, to identify it as the concept of utility-- and then to demonstrate why this moral foundation is so extraordinary, so central to our existence as human beings.

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