In his autobiography, John Stuart Mill relates the mental crisis that he experienced as a young man when he asked himself whether he would be happy if all the reforms that he thought necessary were granted or achieved. Would they necessarily fulfill him?
The answer, obviously, was ‘No,’ and Mill, having been nothing if not a man of the most complete integrity, suffered a nervous collapse. ‘The end had ceased to charm,’ he wrote, ‘and how could there ever again be any interest in the means? I seemed to have nothing left to live for.’
Few people, however, are as intelligent or scrupulous as Mill; but like him, they need something to live for. Indeed, the struggle for existence (or subsistence) having been more or less won – how, without a great deal of determination, do you starve in a modern society?