Mill var nedstämd

Under några år i 20-årsåldern var John Stuart Mill deprimerad, vilket han beskriver i sin Autobiography:

From the winter of 1821, when I first read Bentham, and especially from the commencement of the Westminster Review, I had what might truly be called an object in life; to be a reformer of the world. My conception of my own happiness was entirely identified with this object. …


But the time came when I awakened from this as from a dream. It was in the autumn of 1826. I was in a dull state of nerves, such as everybody is occasionally liable to; unsusceptible to enjoyment or pleasurable excitement; one of those moods when what is pleasure at other times, becomes insipid or indifferent; the state, I should think, in which converts to Methodism usually are, when smitten by their first “conviction of sin.” In this frame of mind it occurred to me to put the question directly to myself, “Suppose that all your objects in life were realized; that all the changes in institutions and opinions which you are looking forward to, could be completely effected at this very instant: would this be a great joy and happiness to you?” And an irrepressible self-consciousness distinctly answered, “No!” At this my heart sank within me: the whole foundation on which my life was constructed fell down. All my happiness was to have been found in the continual pursuit of this end. The end had ceased to charm, and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.

Jag har full förståelse för grunden för nedstämdheten, påverkad som jag är av Schopenhauer. När de stora målen inte längre ter sig önskvärda, eftersom deras uppnående tar bort den känsla av mål och mening som följer av att sträva efter deras uppnående, hur ska man då finna grund för glädje? I de små målen? Är de tillräckliga? Och framförallt: kännetecknas inte de av problemet att deras uppnående leder till tristess och ett ständigt behov av ett ekorrhjul av nya små mål och deras uppnående?