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John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill
Full name John Stuart Mill
Born 20 May 1806(1806-05-20)
Pentonville, London, England
Died 8 May 1873 (aged 66)
Avignon, France
Era 19th-century philosophy, Classical economics
Region Western Philosophy
School Empiricism, utilitarianism, liberalism
Main interests Political philosophy, ethics, economics, inductive logic
Notable ideas public/private sphere, hierarchy of pleasures in Utilitarianism, liberalism, early liberal feminism, harm principle, Mill's Methods

John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 8 May 1873), English philosopher, political theorist, political economist, civil servant and Member of Parliament, was an influential British Classical liberal thinker of the 19th century whose works on liberty justified freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control.[2] He was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham, although his conception of it was very different from Bentham's. Hoping to remedy the problems found in an inductive approach to science, such as confirmation bias, he clearly set forth the premises of falsification as the key component in the scientific method.[3]

Contents

Biography

John Stuart Mill was born on Rodney Street in the Pentonville area of London, the eldest son of the Scottish philosopher and historian James Mill and Harriet Burrow. John Stuart was educated by his father, with the advice and assistance of Jeremy Bentham and Francis Place. He was given an extremely rigorous upbringing, and was deliberately shielded from association with children his own age other than his siblings. His father, a follower of Bentham and an adherent of associationism, had as his explicit aim to create a genius intellect that would carry on the cause of utilitarianism and its implementation after he and Bentham had died. Mill was a notably precocious child; at the age of three he was taught Greek. By the age of eight he had read Aesop's Fables, Xenophon's Anabasis, and the whole of Herodotus, and was acquainted with Lucian, Diogenes Laërtius, Isocrates and six dialogues of Plato. He had also read a great deal of history in English and had been taught arithmetic.

At the age of eight he began learning Latin, Euclid, and algebra, and was appointed schoolmaster to the younger children of the family. His main reading was still history, but he went through all the commonly taught Latin and Greek authors and by the age of ten could read Plato and Demosthenes with ease. His father also thought that it was important for Mill to study and compose poetry. One of Mill's earliest poetry compositions was a continuation of the Iliad. In his spare time, he also enjoyed reading about natural sciences and popular novels, such as Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe.

His father's History of India was published in 1818; immediately thereafter, about the age of twelve, Mill began a thorough study of the scholastic logic, at the same time reading Aristotle's logical treatises in the original language. In the following year he was introduced to political economy and studied Adam Smith and David Ricardo with his father, ultimately completing their classical economic view of factors of production. Mill's comptes rendus of his daily economy lessons helped his father in writing Elements of Political Economy, which became the leading textbook exposition of doctrinaire Ricardian economics. Ricardo, who was a close friend of his father, used to invite the young Mill to his house for a walk in order to talk about political economy.

At age fourteen, Mill stayed a year in France with the family of Sir Samuel Bentham, brother of Jeremy Bentham. The mountain scenery he saw led to a lifelong taste for mountain landscapes. The lively and friendly way of life of the French also left a deep impression on him. In Montpellier, he attended the winter courses on chemistry, zoology, logic of the Faculté des Sciences, as well as taking a course of the higher mathematics. While coming and going from France, he stayed in Paris for a few days in the house of the renowned economist Jean-Baptiste Say, a friend of Mill's father. There he met many leaders of the Liberal party, as well as other notable Parisians, including Henri Saint-Simon.

This intensive study however had injurious effects on Mill's mental health, and state of mind. At the age of twenty[4] he suffered a nervous breakdown. As explained in chapter V of his Autobiography, this was caused by the great physical and mental arduousness of his studies which had suppressed any feelings he might have developed normally in childhood. Nevertheless, this depression eventually began to dissipate, as he began to find solace in the Mémoires of Jean-François Marmontel and the poetry of William Wordsworth.

Mill refused to study at Oxford University or Cambridge University, because he refused to take Anglican orders from the "white devil".[5] Instead he followed his father to work for the East India Company until 1858.

In 1851, Mill married Harriet Taylor after 21 years of an intimate friendship. Taylor was married when they met, and their relationship was close but generally believed to be chaste during the years before her first husband died. Brilliant in her own right, Taylor was a significant influence on Mill's work and ideas during both friendship and marriage. His relationship with Harriet Taylor reinforced Mill's advocacy of women's rights. He cites her influence in his final revision of On Liberty, which was published shortly after her death, and she appears to be obliquely referenced in The Subjection of Women. Taylor died in 1858 after developing severe lung congestion, only seven years into their marriage.

Between the years 1865-1868 Mill served as Lord Rector of the University of St. Andrews. During the same period, 1865-8, he was a Member of Parliament for City and Westminster[6], and was often associated with the Liberal Party. During his time as an MP, Mill advocated easing the burdens on Ireland, and in 1869 became the first person in Parliament to call for women to be given the right to vote. Mill became a strong advocate of women's rights and such social reforms as labor unions and farm cooperatives. In Considerations on Representative Government, Mill called for various reforms of Parliament and voting, especially proportional representation, the Single Transferable Vote, and the extension of suffrage. He was godfather to Bertrand Russell.

He died in Avignon, France, in 1873, where he is buried alongside his wife.

Works

Theory of liberty

Mill's On Liberty addresses the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. One argument that Mill develops further than any previous philosopher is the harm principle. The harm principle holds that each individual has the right to act as he wants, so long as these actions do not harm others. If the action is self-regarding, that is, if it only directly affects the person undertaking the action, then society has no right to intervene, even if it feels the actor is harming himself. He does argue, however, that individuals are prevented from doing lasting, serious harm to themselves or their property by the harm principle. Because no-one exists in isolation, harm done to oneself also harms others, and destroying property deprives the community as well as oneself.[7] Mill excuses those who are "incapable of self-government" from this principle, such as young children or those living in "backward states of society".

Mill argues that despotism is an acceptable form of government for those societies that are "backward", as long as the despot has the best interests of the people at heart, because of the barriers to spontaneous progress.[8] Though this principle seems clear, there are a number of complications. For example, Mill explicitly states that "harms" may include acts of omission as well as acts of commission. Thus, failing to rescue a drowning child counts as a harmful act, as does failing to pay taxes, or failing to appear as a witness in court. All such harmful omissions may be regulated, according to Mill. By contrast, it does not count as harming someone if — without force or fraud — the affected individual consents to assume the risk: thus one may permissibly offer unsafe employment to others, provided there is no deception involved. (Mill does, however, recognize one limit to consent: society should not permit people to sell themselves into slavery). In these and other cases, it is important to keep in mind that the arguments in On Liberty are grounded on the principle of Utility, and not on appeals to natural rights.

The question of what counts as a self-regarding action and what actions, whether of omission or commission, constitute harmful actions subject to regulation, continues to exercise interpreters of Mill. It is important to emphasize that Mill did not consider giving offense to constitute "harm"; an action could not be restricted because it violated the conventions or morals of a given society. The idea of 'offense' causing harm and thus being restricted was later developed by Joel Feinberg in his 'offense principle' essentially an extension of J.S.Mill's 'harm principle'.

On Liberty involves an impassioned defense of free speech. Mill argues that free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. We can never be sure, he contends, that a silenced opinion does not contain some element of the truth. He also argues that allowing people to air false opinions is productive for two reasons. First, individuals are more likely to abandon erroneous beliefs if they are engaged in an open exchange of ideas. Second, by forcing other individuals to re-examine and re-affirm their beliefs in the process of debate, these beliefs are kept from declining into mere dogma. It is not enough for Mill that one simply has an unexamined belief that happens to be true; one must understand why the belief in question is the true one.

John Stuart Mill and Helen Taylor. Helen was the daughter of Harriet Taylor and collaborated with Mill for fifteen years after her mother's death in 1858

Mill's view on social liberty and tyranny of majority (from On Liberty)

Mill believed that “the struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history.” For him, liberty in antiquity was a “contest... between subjects, or some classes of subjects, and the government." Mill defined "social liberty" as protection from "the tyranny of political rulers." He introduces a number of different tyrannies, including social tyranny, and also the tyranny of the majority.

Social liberty for Mill was to put limits on the ruler’s power so that he would not be able to use his power on his own wishes and make every kind of decision which could harm society; in other words, people should have the right to have a say in the government’s decisions. He said that social liberty was “the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual”. It was attempted in two ways: first, by obtaining recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties or rights; second, by establishment of a system of "constitutional checks".

However, limiting the power of government is not enough. "Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.”

View on liberty

John Stuart Mill’s view on liberty, which was influenced by Joseph Priestley and Josiah Warren, is that the individual ought be free to do as he wishes unless he harms others. Individuals are rational enough to make decisions about their good being and choose any religion they want to. Government should interfere when it is for the protection of society. Mill explains,

“The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right...The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns him, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”[9]

View on freedom of speech

An influential advocate of freedom of speech, Mill objected to censorship. He says: "I choose, by preference the cases which are least favourable to me - In which the argument against freedom of opinion, both on truth and that of utility, is considered the strongest. Let the opinions impugned be the belief of God and in a future state, or any of the commonly received doctrines of morality... But I must be permitted to observe that it is not the feeling sure of a doctrine (be it what it may) which I call an assumption of infallibility. It is the undertaking to decide that question for others, without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side. And I denounce and reprobate this pretension not the less if it is put forth on the side of my most solemn convictions. However positive anyone's persuasion may be, not only of the faculty but of the pernicious consequences, but (to adopt expressions which I altogether condemn) the immorality and impiety of opinion. - yet if, in pursuance of that private judgement, though backed by the public judgement of his country or contemporaries, he prevents the opinion from being heard in its defence, he assumes infallibility. And so far from the assumption being less objectionable or less dangerous because the opinion is called immoral or impious, this is the case of all others in which it is most fatal.” [10]

Human rights and slavery

In 1850, Mill sent an anonymous letter (which came to be known under the title "The Negro Question"), in rebuttal to Thomas Carlyle's anonymous letter to Fraser's Magazine for Town and Country. Carlyle had defended slavery on grounds of genetic inferiority and claimed that the West Indies development was due to British ingenuity alone and dismissed any notion that there was a debtedness to imported slaves for building the economy there. Mill's rebuttal and references to the ongoing debate in the U.S. at the time regarding slavery were emphatic and eloquent. The full text, as well as a link to the Carlyle letter which prompted it, is available online.[11]

Mill is also famous for being one of the earliest and strongest supporters of ever greater rights for women. His book The Subjection of Women is one of the earliest written on this subject by a male author. He felt that the 'oppression' of women was one of the few remaining relics from ancient times, a set of prejudices that severely impeded the progress of humanity.[12]

Connection to Feminism

During the time when Mill was alive (1806-1873) the expectations for women, but especially those from the upper classes, were much different than today. Women were uneducated and taught to be ‘pure’ and respectable so they could gain a husband and a home. The respectability that women had to possess not only directly affected them and their ability to marry, but affected their family’s honor as well. Mill saw women’s issues as important and set out to change this state of affairs and with this, Mill began to write in favor of greater rights for women. With this, Mill can be considered one of the first male feminists. In his article, “The Subjection of Women”, he talks about the role of women in marriage and how he felt it needed to be changed. There, Mill comments on three major facets of women’s lives that he felt are hindering them: society and gender construction, education, and marriage. All three of these issues were very much so entwined and affect each other greatly. But, in his opinion, it is gender construction and society in general that starts the domino effect of what is to become of women at this time and everything else seems to fall into place after that.

Utilitarianism

The canonical statement of Mill's utilitarianism can be found in Utilitarianism. This philosophy has a long tradition, although Mill's account is primarily influenced by Jeremy Bentham and Mill's father James Mill.

Mill's famous formulation of utilitarianism is known as the "greatest-happiness principle". It holds that one must always act so as to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, within reason. Mill's major contribution to utilitarianism is his argument for the qualitative separation of pleasures. Bentham treats all forms of happiness as equal, whereas Mill argues that intellectual and moral pleasures are superior to more physical forms of pleasure. Mill distinguishes between happiness and contentment, claiming that the former is of higher value than the latter, a belief wittily encapsulated in the statement that "[i]t 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, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question."

Mill defines the difference between higher and lower forms of happiness with the principle that those who have experienced both tend to prefer one over the other. This is, perhaps, in direct contrast with Bentham's statement that "Pushpin is as good as Poetry", that, if a simple child's game like hopscotch causes more pleasure to more people than a night at the opera house, it is more imperative upon a society to devote more resources to propagating hopscotch than running opera houses. Mill's argument is that the "simple pleasures" tend to be preferred by people who have no experience with high art, and are therefore not in a proper position to judge. Mill supported legislation that would have granted extra voting power to university graduates on the grounds that they were in a better position to judge what would be best for society. It should be noted that, in this example, Mill did not intend to devalue uneducated people and would certainly have advocated sending the poor but talented to universities: he believed that education, and not the intrinsic nature of the educated, qualified them to have more influence in government.

Mill also dealt with one of the prime problems associated with utilitarianism, that of schadenfreude. Detractors of utilitarianism argued, among other things, that, if enough people hated another person sufficiently that simply reducing the happiness of the object of their hatred would cause them pleasure, it would be incumbent upon a utilitarian society to aid them in harming the individual. Mill argued that, in order to have such an attitude of malice, each citizen would have to value his own pleasure over that of another. Society, therefore, is in no way obligated to indulge him; on the contrary, it is fully permitted to suppress his actions.

The qualitative account of happiness that Mill advocates thus sheds light on his account presented in On Liberty. As Mill suggests in that text, utility is to be conceived in relation to mankind "as a progressive being", which includes the development and exercise of his rational capacities as he strives to achieve a "higher mode of existence". The rejection of censorship and paternalism is intended to provide the necessary social conditions for the achievement of knowledge and the greatest ability for the greatest number to develop and exercise their deliberative and rational capacities.

Economic philosophy

Mill's early economic philosophy was one of free markets. However, he accepted interventions in the economy, such as a tax on alcohol, if there were sufficient utilitarian grounds. He also accepted the principle of legislative intervention for the purpose of animal welfare. [2] Mill originally believed that "equality of taxation" meant "equality of sacrifice" and that progressive taxation penalized those who worked harder and saved more and was therefore "a mild form of robbery".[3]

Given a tax break to the rich, Mill agreed that inheritance should be taxed. A utilitarian society would agree that everyone should be equal one way or another. Therefore receiving inheritance would put one ahead of society unless taxed on the inheritance. Those who donate should consider and choose carefully where their monies go. Some charities are more deserving than others. Considering public charities boards such as a government will disperse the monies equally. However a private charity board like a church would disperse the monies fairly to those whom are in more need than others.[13]

Later he altered his views toward a more socialist bent, adding chapters to his Principles of Political Economy in defense of a socialist outlook, and defending some socialist causes.[14] Within this revised work he also made the radical proposal that the whole wage system be abolished in favour of a co-operative wage system. Nonetheless, some of his views on the idea of flat taxation remained, albeit in a slightly toned down form.[15]

Mill's Principles of Political Economy, first published in 1848, was one of the most widely read of all books on economics in the period.[16] As Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations had during an earlier period, Mill's Principles dominated economics teaching. In the case of Oxford University it was the standard text until 1919. The text that replaced it was written by Cambridge's Alfred Marshall.

Economic democracy

Mill promoted economic democracy in the capitalist economy whereby labourers would elect members of management.[17] Mill believed that this was necessary to end what he deemed to be dictatorial management of capitalist firms and to establish liberty and equality in the capitalist economy.[18] Mill's promotion of the right of labourers to elect management has been seen as support for economic corporatism.[19]

Panics and Capital

Mill once made a statement on panics and capital, saying

Panics do not destroy capital; they merely reveal the extent to which it has been destroyed by its betrayal into hopelessly unproductive works.
John Mills, Article read before the Manchester Statistical Society, December 11, 1867, on Credit Cycles and the Origin of Commercial Panics[20]

Mill's views on the Environment

Mill demonstrated an early insight into the value of the natural world - in particular in Book IV, chapter VI of "Principles of Political Economy": "Of the Stationary State" [21][22] in which Mill recognised wealth beyond the material, and argued that the logical conclusion of unlimited growth was destruction of the environment and a reduced quality of life. He concluded that a stationary state, rather than economic growth, was ideal:

If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger, but not a better or a happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary, long before necessity compel them to it.

Major publications

  • "Two Letters on the Measure of Value", 1822, The Traveller
  • "Questions of Population", 1823, Black Dwarf
  • "War Expenditure", 1824, Westminster Review
  • "Quarterly Review -- Political Economy", 1825, Westminster Review
  • "Review of Miss Martineau's Tales", 1830, Examiner
  • "The Spirit of the Age", 1831, Examiner
  • "What is Poetry", 1833, 1859
  • "Essay on Bentham" 1838
  • "Essay on Coleridge" 1840
  • A System of Logic, 1843
  • Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, 1844
  • "Claims of Labour", 1845, Edinburgh Review
  • The Principles of Political Economy: with some of their applications to social philosophy, 1848
  • "The Negro Question", 1850, Fraser's Magazine
  • Dissertations and Discussions, 1859.
  • A Few Words on Non-intervention, 1859
  • On Liberty, 1859
  • Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, 1859.
  • Considerations on Representative Government, 1861
  • "Centralisation", 1862, Edinburgh Review
  • "The Contest in America", 1862, Harper's Magazine
  • Utilitarianism, 1863
  • An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy, 1865.
  • Auguste Comte and Positivism, 1865.
  • Inaugural Address at St. Andrews - Rectorial Inaugural Address at the University of St. Andrews, concerning the value of culture, 1867.
  • "Speech In Favor of Capital Punishment", 1868 [23] [24]
  • England and Ireland, 1868.
  • "Thornton on Labor and its Claims", 1869, Fortnightly Review
  • The Subjection of Women, 1869
  • Chapters and Speeches on the Irish Land Question, 1870
  • On Nature, 1874
  • Autobiography of John Stuart Mill, 1873
  • Three Essays on Religion, 1874
  • "Notes on N.W. Senior's Political Economy", 1945, Economica

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Friedrich Hayek (1941). "The Counter-Revolution of Science". Economica 8 (31): 281–320. doi:10.2307/2549335. 
  2. ^ "John Stuart Mill's On Liberty". victorianweb. http://www.victorianweb.org/philosophy/mill/liberty.html. Retrieved 2009-07-23. "On Liberty is a rational justification of the freedom of the individual in opposition to the claims of the state to impose unlimited control and is thus a defence of the rights of the individual against the state." 
  3. ^ "John Stuart Mill (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)". plato.stanford.edu. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/#SciMet. Retrieved 2009-07-31. 
  4. ^ Mill, J.S. Autobiography, Part V (1873).
  5. ^ Capaldi, Nicholas. John Stuart Mill: A Biography. p.33, Cambridge, 2004, ISBN 0-521-62024-4.
  6. ^ Ibid. p.321-322
  7. ^ Mill, John Stuart "On Liberty" Penguin Classics, 2006 ISBN 978-0-14-144147-4 pages 90-91
  8. ^ Mill, John Stuart "On Liberty" Penguin Classics, 2006 ISBN 978-0-14-144147-4 page 16
  9. ^ John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), “The Contest in America.” Harper's New Monthly Magazine, Volume 24, Issue 143, page 683-684. Harper & Bros., New York, April 1862. [1]
  10. ^ John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) “On Liberty” 1859. ed. Gertrude Himmelfarb, UK: Penguin, 1985, pp.83-84
  11. ^ The Negro Question by John Stuart Mill.
  12. ^ Mill, J.S. (1869) The Subjection of Women, Chapter 1
  13. ^ (Strasser,1991)
  14. ^ Mill, John Stuart and Benthem, Jeremy edited by Ryan, Alan. (2004). Utilitarianism and other essays. London: Penguin Books. pp. 11. ISBN 0-140-43272-8. 
  15. ^ Wilson, Fred (2007). "John Stuart Mill: Political Economy". Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Stanford University. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mill/#PolEco. Retrieved 2009-05-04. 
  16. ^ Ekelund, Robert B., Jr. and Hébert, Robert F. (1997). A history of economic theory and method (4th ed.). Waveland Press [Long Grove, Illinois]. pp. 172. ISBN 1-57766-381-0. 
  17. ^ Gregg, Samuel. The commercial society: foundations and challenges in a global age. Lanham,USA; Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2007. Pp. 109
  18. ^ Gregg, Samuel. The commercial society: foundations and challenges in a global age. Lanham,USA; Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2007. Pp. 109
  19. ^ Gregg, Samuel. The commercial society: foundations and challenges in a global age. Lanham,USA; Plymouth, UK: Lexington Books, 2007. Pp. 109
  20. ^ As quoted in Financial crises and periods of industrial and commercial depression, Burton, T. E. (1931, first published 1902). New York and London: D. Appleton & Co
  21. ^ http://www.efm.bris.ac.uk/het/mill/book4/bk4ch06 The Principles of Political Economy, Book 4, Chapter VI.
  22. ^ "The early history of modern ecological economics Inge Røpke in Ecological Economics Volume 50, Issues 3-4, 1 October 2004". http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VDY-4DG3DFP-1/2/d74b62bf0315ae52a3e60f698eae5ca5. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  23. ^ Hansard report of Commons Sitting:CAPITAL PUNISHMENT WITHIN PRISONS BILL— [BILL 36.] COMMITTEE stage: HC Deb 21 April 1868 vol 191 cc1033-63 including Mill's speech Col. 1047-1055
  24. ^ His speech against the abolition of capital punishment was commented upon in an editorial in The Times, Wednesday, Apr 22, 1868; pg. 8; Issue 26105; col E:

References

  • Clifford G. Christians and John C. Merrill (eds.) Ethical Communication: Five Moral Stances in Human Dialogue (Columbia, MO.: University of Missouri Press, 2009)
  • Mark Philip Strasser, "Moral Philosophy of John Stuart Mill," Longwood Academic (1991). Wakefield, New Hampshire. ISBN 0-89341-681-9
  • Michael St. John Packe, The Life of John Stuart Mill, Macmillan (1952).
  • David O. Brink, "Mill's Deliberative Utilitarianism," in Philosophy and Public Affairs 21 (1992), 67-103.
  • Sterling Harwood, "Eleven Objections to Utilitarianism," in Louis P. Pojman, ed., Moral Philosophy: A Reader (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Co., 1998), and in Sterling Harwood, ed., Business as Ethical and Business as Usual (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co., 1996), Chapter 7, and in [4] www.sterlingharwood.com.
  • Richard Reeves, John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand, Atlantic Books (2007), paperback 2008. ISBN 978-1-84354-644-3
  • Robinson, Dave & Groves, Judy (2003). Introducing Political Philosophy. Icon Books. ISBN 1-84046-450-X.
  • Frederick Rosen, Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill (Routledge Studies in Ethics & Moral Theory), 2003. ISBN 0415220947
  • Samuel Hollander, The Economics of John Stuart Mill (University of Toronto Press, 1985)
  • Mill, John Stuart, A System of Logic, University Press of the Pacific, Honolulu, 2002, ISBN 1-4102-0252-6
  • Chin Liew Ten, Mill on Liberty, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1980, full-text online at [5] Victorianweb.org (National University of Singapore)
  • "Right Again, The passions of John Stuart Mill," by Adam Gopnik. The New Yorker, October 6, 2008.
  • "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: John Stuart Mill"

Kolmar, Wendy, and Frances Bartowski. Feminist Theory. 2nd ed. New York: Mc Graw Hill, 2005. Print.

External links

Mill's works

Secondary works

Further information

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir George de Lacy Evans
Member of Parliament for Westminster
18651868
Succeeded by
William Henry Smith
Academic offices
Preceded by
William Stirling of Keir
Rector of the University of St Andrews
1865 - 1868
Succeeded by
James Anthony Froude

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think.

John Stuart Mill (1806-05-201873-05-08), also known as J.S. Mill, was an English political philosopher and economist who was an advocate of utilitarianism.

Contents

Sourced

We are not so absurd as to propose that the teacher should not set forth his own opinions as the true ones and exert his utmost powers to exhibit their truth in the strongest light.
Whatever is known to us by consciousness, is known beyond possibility of question. What one sees or feels, whether bodily or mentally, one cannot but be sure that one sees or feels.
The perception of distance by the eye, which seems so like intuition, is thus, in reality, an inference grounded on experience; an inference, too, which we learn to make; and which we make with more and more correctness as our experience increases; though in familiar cases it takes place, so rapidly as to appear exactly on a par with those perceptions of sight which are really intuitive, our perceptions of colour.
A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
  • Whatever we may think or affect to think of the present age, we cannot get out of it; we must suffer with its sufferings, and enjoy with its enjoyments; we must share in its lot, and, to be either useful or at ease, we must even partake its character.
  • The principle itself of dogmatic religion, dogmatic morality, dogmatic philosophy, is what requires to be rooted out; not any particular manifestation of that principle.
    The very corner-stone of an education intended to form great minds, must be the recognition of the principle, that the object is to call forth the greatest possible quantity of intellectual power, and to inspire the intensest love of truth
    : and this without a particle of regard to the results to which the exercise of that power may lead, even though it should conduct the pupil to opinions diametrically opposite to those of his teachers. We say this, not because we think opinions unimportant, but because of the immense importance which we attach to them; for in proportion to the degree of intellectual power and love of truth which we succeed in creating, is the certainty that (whatever may happen in any one particular instance) in the aggregate of instances true opinions will be the result; and intellectual power and practical love of truth are alike impossible where the reasoner is shown his conclusions, and informed beforehand that he is expected to arrive at them.
    • "Civilization," London and Westminster Review (April 1836)
  • We are not so absurd as to propose that the teacher should not set forth his own opinions as the true ones and exert his utmost powers to exhibit their truth in the strongest light. To abstain from this would be to nourish the worst intellectual habit of all, that of not finding, and not looking for, certainty in any teacher. But the teacher himself should not be held to any creed; nor should the question be whether his own opinions are the true ones, but whether he is well instructed in those of other people, and, in enforcing his own, states the arguments for all conflicting opinions fairly.
    • "Civilization," London and Westminster Review (April 1836)
  • Whatever is known to us by consciousness, is known beyond possibility of question. What one sees or feels, whether bodily or mentally, one cannot but be sure that one sees or feels. No science is required for the purpose of establishing such truths; no rules of art can render our knowledge of them more certain than it is in itself. There is no logic for this portion of our knowledge.
    But we may fancy that we see or feel what we in reality infer. Newton saw the truth of many propositions of geometry without reading the demonstrations, but not, we may be sure, without their flashing through his mind. A truth, or supposed truth, which is really the result of a very rapid inference, may seem to be apprehended intuitively. It has long been agreed by thinkers of the most opposite schools, that this mistake is actually made in so familiar an instance as that of the eyesight. There is nothing of which we appear to ourselves to be more directly conscious, than the distance of an object from us. Yet it has long been ascertained, that what is perceived by the eye, is at most nothing more than a variously coloured surface; that when we fancy we see distance, all we really see is certain variations of apparent size, and degrees of faintness of colour; and that our estimate of the object's distance from us is the result of a comparison (made with so much rapidity that we are unconscious of making it) between the size and colour of the object as they appear at the time, and the size and colour of the same or of similar objects as they appeared when close at hand, or when their degree of remoteness was known by other evidence. The perception of distance by the eye, which seems so like intuition, is thus, in reality, an inference grounded on experience; an inference, too, which we learn to make; and which we make with more and more correctness as our experience increases; though in familiar cases it takes place, so rapidly as to appear exactly on a par with those perceptions of sight which are really intuitive, our perceptions of colour.
  • Since the state must necessarily provide subsistence for the criminal poor while undergoing punishment, not to do the same for the poor who have not offended is to give a premium on crime.
    • Principles of Political Economy (1848), Chapter XI, §13.
  • War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.
    • "The Contest in America," Fraser’s Magazine (February 1862); later published in Dissertations and Discussions (1868), vol.1 p. 26
  • I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.
    • Letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington (March 1866)
    • Cited on page 147 of W. L. Courtney's 1889 book "Life of John Stuart Mill" as elaboration of footnote 3 to chapter 7 of Mill's "Considerations on Representative Government"
  • The tendency has always been strong to believe that whatever received a name must be an entity or thing, having an independent existence of its own; and if no real entity answering to the name could be found, men did not for that reason suppose that none existed, but imagined that it was something peculiarly abstruse and mysterious, too high to be an object of sense. The meaning of all general, and especially of all abstract terms, became in this way enveloped in a mystical base...
  • How can great minds be produced in a country where the test of a great mind is agreeing in the opinions of small minds?
    • Cited in James Huneker, Egoists: A Book of Supermen (New York: 1909), p. 367

On Liberty (1859)

Three Essays: On Liberty; Representative Government; The Subjection of Women. Oxford University Press, 1975, ISBN 0-19-283013-9
Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression...
The great writers to whom the world owes what religious liberty it possesses, have mostly asserted freedom of conscience as an indefeasible right, and denied absolutely that a human being is accountable to others for his religious belief.
The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.

Ch. I: Introductory

  • The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognized as the vital question of the future. It is so far from being new, that, in a certain sense, it has divided mankind, almost from the remotest ages; but in the stage of progress into which the more civilized portions of the species have now entered, it presents itself under new conditions, and requires a different and more fundamental treatment. (p. 5)
  • Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own. There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism. (p. 9)
  • All that makes existence valuable to any one, depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people. Some rules of conduct, therefore, must be imposed, by law in the first place, and by opinion on many things which are not fit subjects for the operation of law. What these rules should be, is the principal question in human affairs; but if we except a few of the most obvious cases, it is one of those which least progress has been made in resolving. No two ages, and scarcely any two countries, have decided it alike; and the decision of one age or country is a wonder to another. (p. 10)
  • The rules that obtain among themselves [a people] appear to them self-evident and self-justifying. This all but universal illusion is one of the examples of the magical influence of custom, which is not only, as the proverb says, a second nature, but is continually mistaken for the first. The effect of custom, in preventing any misgiving respecting the rules of conduct which mankind impose on one another, is all the more complete because the subject is one on which it is not generally considered necessary that reasons should be given, either by one person to others, or by each to himself. (p. 10)
  • The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals. They preferred endeavouring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally. (p. 12)
  • The great writers to whom the world owes what religious liberty it possesses, have mostly asserted freedom of conscience as an indefeasible right, and denied absolutely that a human being is accountable to others for his religious belief. Yet so natural to mankind is intolerance in whatever they really care about, that religious freedom has hardly anywhere been practically realised, except where religious indifference, which dislikes to have its peace disturbed by theological quarrels, has added its weight to the scale. (p. 13)
  • Wherever the sentiment of the majority is still genuine and intense, it is found to have abated little of its claim to be obeyed. (p. 13)
  • The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil, in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. (pp. 14-15)
  • A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. The latter case, it is true, requires a much more cautious exercise of compulsion than the former. To make any one answerable for doing evil to others, is the rule; to make him answerable for not preventing evil is, comparatively speaking, the exception. Yet there are many cases clear enough and grave enough to justify that exception. (p. 17)
  • The only freedom which deserves the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest. (p. 18)
  • Some of those modern reformers who have placed themselves in strongest opposition to the religions of the past, have been noway behind either churches or sects in their assertion of the right of spiritual domination. (p. 19)
  • The disposition of mankind, whether as rulers or as fellow-citizens, to impose their own opinions and inclinations as a rule of conduct on others, is so energetically supported by some of the best and by some of the worst feelings incident to human nature, that it is hardly ever kept under restraint by anything but want of power; and as the power is not declining, but growing, unless a strong barrier of moral conviction can be raised against the mischief, we must expect, in the present circumstances of the world, to see it increase. (p. 20)

Ch. II: Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.
Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision.
It is a bitter thought, how different a thing the Christianity of the world might have been, if the Christian faith had been adopted as the religion of the empire under the auspices of Marcus Aurelius instead of those of Constantine.
To discover to the world something which deeply concerns it, and of which it was previously ignorant; to prove to it that it had been mistaken on some vital point of temporal or spiritual interest, is as important a service as a human being can render to his fellow creatures.
However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.
  • If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. (p. 23)
  • The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. (p. 24)
  • We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. (p. 24)
  • To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility. Its condemnation may be allowed to rest on this common argument, not the worse for being common. (p. 24)
  • While every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable. (p. 24)
  • In proportion to a man's want of confidence in his own solitary judgment, does he usually repose, with implicit trust, on the infallibility of "the world" in general. And the world, to each individual, means the part of it with which he comes in contact; his party, his sect, his church, his class of society; the man may be called, by comparison, almost liberal and large-minded to whom it means anything so comprehensive as his own country or his own age. Nor is his faith in this collective authority at all shaken by his being aware that other ages, countries, sects, churches, classes, and parties have thought, and even now think, the exact reverse. (p. 25)
  • Ages are no more infallible than individuals; every age having held many opinions which subsequent ages have deemed not only false but absurd; and it is as certain that many opinions, now general, will be rejected by future ages, as it is that many, once general, are rejected by the present. (p. 25)
  • There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation. Complete liberty of contradicting and disproving our opinion is the very condition which justifies us in assuming its truth for purposes of action; and on no other terms can a being with human faculties have any rational assurance of being right. (pp. 26-27)
  • In the case of any person whose judgment is really deserving of confidence, how has it become so? Because he has kept his mind open to criticism of his opinions and conduct. Because it has been his practice to listen to all that could be said against him; to profit by as much of it as was just, and expound to himself, and upon occasion to others, the fallacy of what was fallacious. Because he has felt, that the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner. (pp. 27-28)
  • Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being "pushed to an extreme"; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case. Strange that they should imagine that they are not assuming infallibility, when they acknowledge that there should be free discussion on all subjects which can possibly be doubtful, but think that some particular principle or doctrine should be forbidden to be questioned because it is so certain, that is, because they are certain that it is certain. To call any proposition certain, while there is any one who would deny its certainty if permitted, but who is not permitted, is to assume that we ourselves, and those who agree with us, are the judges of certainty, and judges without hearing the other side. (p. 29)
  • The usefulness of an opinion is itself matter of opinion. (p. 30)
  • Mankind can hardly be too often reminded, that there was once a man named Socrates, between whom and the legal authorities and public opinion of his time, there took place a memorable collision. Born in an age and country abounding in individual greatness, this man has been handed down to us by those who best knew both him and the age, as the most virtuous man in it; while we know him as the head and prototype of all subsequent teachers of virtue... This acknowledged master of all the eminent thinkers who have since lived — whose fame, still growing after more than two thousand years, all but outweighs the whole remainder of the names which make his native city illustrious — was put to death by his countrymen, after a judicial conviction, for impiety and immorality. (p. 32)
  • The only other instance of judicial iniquity, the mention of which, after the condemnation of Socrates, would not be an anti-climax: the event which took place on Calvary rather more than eighteen hundred years ago. The man who left on the memory of those who witnessed his life and conversation, such an impression of his moral grandeur, that eighteen subsequent centuries have done homage to him as the Almighty in person, was ignominiously put to death, as what? As a blasphemer. Men did not merely mistake their benefactor; they mistook him for the exact contrary of what he was, and treated him as that prodigy of impiety, which they themselves are now held to be, for their treatment of him. (p. 33)
  • It is a bitter thought, how different a thing the Christianity of the world might have been, if the Christian faith had been adopted as the religion of the empire under the auspices of Marcus Aurelius instead of those of Constantine. (p. 35)
  • No Christian more firmly believes that Atheism is false, and tends to the dissolution of society, than Marcus Aurelius believed the same things of Christianity; he who, of all men then living, might have been thought the most capable of appreciating it. Unless any one who approves of punishment for the promulgation of opinions, flatters himself that he is a wiser and better man than Marcus Aurelius — more deeply versed in the wisdom of his time, more elevated in his intellect above it — more earnest in his search for truth, or more single-minded in his devotion to it when found; let him abstain from that assumption of the joint infallibility of himself and the multitude, which the great Antoninus made with so unfortunate a result. (p. 35)
  • To discover to the world something which deeply concerns it, and of which it was previously ignorant; to prove to it that it had been mistaken on some vital point of temporal or spiritual interest, is as important a service as a human being can render to his fellow creatures. (p. 36)
  • The dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution, is one of those pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience refutes. History teems with instances of truth put down by persecution. If not suppressed for ever, it may be thrown back for centuries. (pp. 36-37)
  • It is a piece of idle sentimentality that truth, merely as truth, has any inherent power denied to error, of prevailing against the dungeon and the stake. Men are not more zealous for truth than they often are for error, and a sufficient application of legal or even of social penalties will generally succeed in stopping the propagation of either. The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it, until some one of its reappearances falls on a time when from favourable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it. (p. 37)
  • Penalties for opinion, or at least for its expression, still exist by law; and their enforcement is not, even in these times, so unexampled as to make it at all incredible that they may some day be revived in full force. (p. 38)
  • No one can be a great thinker who does not recognise, that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead. Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think. Not that it is solely, or chiefly, to form great thinkers, that freedom of thinking is required. On the contrary, it is as much and even more indispensable to enable average human beings to attain the mental stature which they are capable of. (p. 43)
  • However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth. (p. 44)
  • All languages and literatures are full of general observations on life, both as to what it is, and how to conduct oneself in it; observations which everybody knows, which everybody repeats, or hears with acquiescence, which are received as truisms, yet of which most people first truly learn the meaning when experience, generally of a painful kind, has made it a reality to them. How often, when smarting under some unforeseen misfortune or disappointment, does a person call to mind some proverb or common saying, familiar to him all his life, the meaning of which, if he had ever before felt it as he does now, would have saved him from the calamity. There are indeed reasons for this, other than the absence of discussion; there are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realised until personal experience has brought it home. But much more of the meaning even of these would have been understood, and what was understood would have been far more deeply impressed on the mind, if the man had been accustomed to hear it argued pro and con by people who did understand it. The fatal tendency of mankind to leave off thinking about a thing when it is no longer doubtful, is the cause of half their errors. (pp. 53-54)

Ch. III: Of Individuality, As One of the Elements of Well-Being

In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service.
  • It really is of importance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it. Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance surely is man himself. (p. 73)
  • It will probably be conceded that it is desirable people should exercise their understandings, and that an intelligent following of custom, or even occasionally an intelligent deviation from custom, is better than a blind and simply mechanical adhesion to it. (pp. 73-74)
  • In sober truth, whatever homage may be professed, or even paid, to real or supposed mental superiority, the general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind. ... At present individuals are lost in the crowd. In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses. ... I am not complaining of all this. I do not assert that anything better is compatible, as a general rule, with the present low state of the human mind. But that does not hinder the government of mediocrity from being mediocre government. No government by a democracy or a numerous aristocracy, either in its political acts or in the opinions, qualities, and tone of mind which it fosters, ever did or could rise above mediocrity, except in so far as the sovereign Many have let themselves be guided (which in their best times they always have done) by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and instructed One or Few. The initiation of all wise or noble things, comes and must come from individuals; generally at first from some one individual.
  • In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time. (p. 83)

Ch. IV: Of the Limits to the Authority of Society over the Individual

  • Though doing no wrong to any one, a person may so act as to compel us to judge him, and feel to him, as a fool, or as a being of an inferior order: and since this judgment and feeling are a fact which he would prefer to avoid, it is doing him a service to warn him of it beforehand, as of any other disagreeable consequence to which he exposes himself. It would be well, indeed, if this good office were much more freely rendered than the common notions of politeness at present permit, and if one person could honestly point out to another that he thinks him in fault, without being considered unmannerly or presuming. (p. 95)
  • We have a right, also, in various ways, to act upon our unfavourable opinion of any one, not to the oppression of his individuality, but in the exercise of ours. We are not bound, for example, to seek his society; we have a right to avoid it (though not to parade the avoidance), for we have a right to choose the society most acceptable to us. We have a right, and it may be our duty, to caution others against him, if we think his example or conversation likely to have a pernicious effect on those with whom he associates. We may give others a preference over him in optional good offices, except those which tend to his improvement. In these various modes a person may suffer very severe penalties at the hands of others for faults which directly concern only himself; but he suffers these penalties only in so far as they are the natural and, as it were, the spontaneous consequences of the faults themselves, not because they are purposely inflicted on him for the sake of punishment. A person who shows rashness, obstinacy, self-conceit — who cannot live within moderate means — who cannot restrain himself from hurtful indulgences — who pursues animal pleasures at the expense of those of feeling and intellect — must expect to be lowered in the opinion of others, and to have a less share of their favourable sentiments; but of this he has no right to complain, unless he has merited their favour by special excellence in his social relations, and has thus established a title to their good offices, which is not affected by his demerits towards himself. (pp. 95-96)
  • If civilisation has got the better of barbarism when barbarism had the world to itself, it is too much to profess to be afraid lest barbarism, after having been fairly got under, should revive and conquer civilisation. A civilisation that can thus succumb to its vanquished enemy, must first have become so degenerate, that neither its appointed priests and teachers, nor anybody else, has the capacity, or will take the trouble, to stand up for it. If this be so, the sooner such a civilisation receives notice to quit the better. It can only go on from bad to worse, until destroyed and regenerated (like the Western Empire) by energetic barbarians. (p. 114)

Ch. V: Applications

  • That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands, I go as far as any one in deprecating. All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation, in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body.

On Representative Government (1861)

One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.
Three Essays: On Liberty; Representative Government; The Subjection of Women. Oxford University Press, 1975, ISBN 0-19-283013-9
  • To think that because those who wield power in society wield in the end that of government, therefore it is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the government by acting on opinion, is to forget that opinion is itself one of the greatest active social forces. One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.
    • Ch. I: To What Extent Forms of Government Are a Matter of Choice (p. 155)
  • Whenever the general disposition of the people is such, that each individual regards those only of his interests which are selfish, and does not dwell on, or concern himself for, his share of the general interest, in such a state of things, good government is impossible.
    • Ch. II: The Criterion of a Good Form of Government (p. 167)
  • A bureaucracy always tends to become a pedantocracy.
    • Ch. VI: Of the Infirmities and Dangers to Which Representative Government Is Liable (p. 234)
  • Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of the representative government, cannot exist.
    • Ch. XVI: Of Nationality, As Connected with Representative Government (p. 382)

Utilitarianism (1861)

Whatever can be proved to be good, must be so by being shown to be a means to something admitted to be good without proof.
In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.
  • I shall, without further discussion of the other theories, attempt to contribute something towards the understanding and appreciation of the Utilitarian or Happiness theory, and towards such proof as it is susceptible of. It is evident that this cannot be proof in the ordinary and popular meaning of the term. Questions of ultimate ends are not amenable to direct proof. Whatever can be proved to be good, must be so by being shown to be a means to something admitted to be good without proof.
    • Ch. 1
  • The art of music is good, for the reason, among others, that it produces pleasure; but what proof is it possible to give that pleasure is good? If, then, it is asserted that there is a comprehensive formula, including all things which are in themselves good, and that whatever else is good, is not so as an end, but as a mean, the formula may be accepted or rejected, but is not a subject of what is commonly understood by proof.
    • Ch. 1
  • Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal appetites, and when once made conscious of them, do not regard anything as happiness which does not include their gratification. I do not, indeed, consider the Epicureans to have been by any means faultless in drawing out their scheme of consequences from the utilitarian principle. To do this in any sufficient manner, many Stoic, as well as Christian elements require to be included. But there is no known Epicurean theory of life which does not assign to the pleasures of the intellect, of the feelings and imagination, and of the moral sentiments, a much higher value as pleasures than to those of mere sensation.
    • Ch. 2
  • Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals for a promise of the fullest allowance of a beast’s pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce, or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they are with theirs.
    • Ch. 2
  • Capacity for [higher] nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but my mere want of sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if the occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the society into which it has thrown them, are not favorable to keeping that higher capacity in exercise. Men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have not time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addict themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying.
    • Ch. 2
  • 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, are 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.
    • Ch. 2
  • In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility. To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.
    • Ch. 2

The Subjection of Women (1869)

I deny that anyone knows, or can know, the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another
  • The object of this Essay is to explain as clearly as I am able grounds of an opinion which I have held from the very earliest period when I had formed any opinions at all on social political matters, and which, instead of being weakened or modified, has been constantly growing stronger by the progress reflection and the experience of life. That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes — the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.
    • Ch. 1
  • In early times, the great majority of the male sex were slaves, as well as the whole of the female. And many ages elapsed, some of them ages of high cultivation, before any thinker was bold enough to question the rightfulness, and the absolute social necessity, either of the one slavery or of the other.
    • Ch. 1
  • People are not aware how entirely, in former ages, the law of superior strength was the rule of life; how publicly and openly it was avowed, I do not say cynically or shamelessly — for these words imply a feeling that there was something in it to be ashamed of, and no such notion could find a place in the faculties of any person in those ages, except a philosopher or a saint.
    • Ch. 1
  • Stupidity is much the same all the world over. A stupid person's notions and feelings may confidently be inferred from those which prevail in the circle by which the person is surrounded. Not so with those whose opinions and feelings are an emanation from their own nature and faculties.
    • Ch. 1
  • I deny that anyone knows, or can know, the nature of the two sexes, as long as they have only been seen in their present relation to one another. If men had ever been found in society without women, or women without men, or if there had been a society of men and women in which the women were not under the control of the men, something might have been positively known about the mental and moral differences which may be inherent in the nature of each. What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing — the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.
    • Ch. 1
  • What, in unenlightened societies, colour, race, religion, or in the case of a conquered country, nationality, are to some men, sex is to all women; a peremptory exclusion from almost all honourable occupations, but either such as cannot be fulfilled by others, or such as those others do not think worthy of their acceptance.
    • Ch. 4
  • When we consider the positive evil caused to the disqualified half of the human race by their disqualification — first in the loss of the most inspiriting and elevating kind of personal enjoyment, and next in the weariness, disappointment, and profound dissatisfaction with life, which are so often the substitute for it; one feels that among all the lessons which men require for carrying on the struggle against the inevitable imperfections of their lot on earth, there is no lesson which they more need, than not to add to the evils which nature inflicts, by their jealous and prejudiced restrictions on one another. Their vain fears only substitute other and worse evils for those which they are idly apprehensive of: while every restraint on the freedom of conduct of any of their human fellow-creatures (otherwise than by making them responsible for any evil actually caused by it), dries up pro tanto the principal fountain of human happiness, and leaves the species less rich, to an inappreciable degree, in all that makes life valuable to the individual human being.
    • Ch. 4

Autobiography (1873)

Those only are happy ... who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.
Full text online; page numbers provided from the edition of Columbia University Press (1960) ISBN 0-231-08506-0
  • The first intellectual operation in which I arrived at any proficiency, was dissecting a bad argument, and finding in what part the fallacy lay; and though whatever capacity of this sort I attained was due to the fact that it was an intellectual exercise in which I was most perseveringly drilled by my father, yet it is also true that the school logic, and the mental habits acquired in studying it, were among the principal instruments of this drilling. I am persuaded that nothing, in modern education, tends so much, when properly used, to form exact thinkers, who attach a precise meaning to words and propositions, and are not imposed on by vague, loose, or ambiguous terms. The boasted influence of mathematical studies is nothing to it; for in mathematical processes, none of the real difficulties of correct ratiocination occur.
    • Ch. 1: Childhood and Early Education (pp. 13-14)
  • The Benthamic standard of "the greatest happiness" was that which I had always been taught to apply; I was even familiar with an abstract discussion of it, forming an episode in an unpublished dialogue on Government, written by my father on the Platonic model. Yet in the first pages of Bentham it burst upon me with all the force of novelty. What thus impressed me was the chapter in which Bentham passed judgment on the common modes of reasoning in morals and legislation, deduced from phrases like "the law of nature," "right reason," "the moral sense," "natural rectitude," and the like, and characterized them as dogmatism in disguise, imposing its sentiments upon others under cover of sounding expressions which convey no reason for the sentiment, but set up the sentiment as its own reason. It had not struck me before, that Bentham's principle put an end to all this. The feeling rushed upon me, that all previous moralists were superseded, and that here indeed was the commencement of a new era in thought.
    • Ch. 3: Last Stage of Education and First of Self-Education (pp. 45-46)
  • Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.
    • Ch. 5: A Crisis in My Mental History (p. 100)
  • Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.
    • Ch. 5: A Crisis in My Mental History (p. 100)
  • The question was, whether, if the reformers of society and government could succeed in their objects, and every person in the community were free and in a state of physical comfort, the pleasures of life, being no longer kept up by struggle and privation, would cease to be pleasures.
    • Ch. 5: A Crisis in My Mental History (p. 102)
  • I had learnt from experience that many false opinions may be exchanged for true ones, without in the least altering the habits of mind of which false opinions are made.
    • Ch. 7: General View of the Remainder of My Life (p. 167)
  • Experience has taught me that those who give their time to the absorbing claims of what is called society, not having leisure to keep up a large acquaintance with the organs of opinion, remain much more ignorant of the general state either of the public mind, or of the active and instructed part of it, than a recluse who reads the newspapers need be.
    • Ch. 7: General View of the Remainder of My Life (p. 184)
  • The practical reformer has continually to demand that changes be made in things which are supported by powerful and widely-spread feelings, or to question the apparent necessity and indefeasibleness of established facts; and it is often an indispensable part of his argument to show, how these powerful feelings had their origin, and how those facts came to seem necessary and indefeasible. There is therefore a natural hostility between him and a philosophy which discourages the explanation of feelings and moral facts by circumstances and association, and prefers to treat them as ultimate elements of human nature; a philosophy which is addicted to holding up favorite doctrines as intuitive truths, and deems intuition to be the voice of Nature and of God, speaking with an authority higher than that of our reason. In particular, I have long felt that the prevailing tendency to regard all the marked distinctions of human character as innate, and in the main indelible, and to ignore the irresistible proofs that by far the greater part of those differences, whether between individuals, races, or sexes, are such as not only might but naturally would be produced by differences in circumstances, is one of the chief hindrances to the rational treatment of great social questions, and one of the greatest stumbling blocks to human improvement.
    • Ch. 7: General View of the Remainder of My Life (p. 192)
  • I well knew that to propose something which would be called extreme, was the true way not to impede but to facilitate a more moderate experiment.
    • Ch. 7: General View of the Remainder of My Life (p. 206)

Misattributed

  • A society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither.
    • Also attributed to Thomas Jefferson, this is a modern paraphrase of a statement of Benjamin Franklin : Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

JOHN STUART MILL (1806-1873), English philosopher and economist, son of James Mill, was born on the 10th of May 1806 in his father's house in Pentonville, London. He was educated ,exclusively by his father, who was a strict disciplinarian, and at the age of three was taught the Greek alphabet and long lists, of Greek words with their English equivalents. By his eighth year he had read Aesop's Fables, Xenophon's Anabasis, and the whole of Herodotus, and was acquainted with Lucian, Diogenes Laertius, Isocrates and six dialogues of Plato (see his Autobiography). He had also read a great deal of history in English - Robertson's histories, Hume, Gibbon, Robert Watson's Philip II. and Philip III., Hooke's Roman History, part of a translation of Rollin's Ancient History, Langhorne's Plutarch, Burnet's History of My Own Times, thirty volumes of the Annual Register, Millar's Historical View of the English Government, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, M`Crie's Knox, and two histories of the Quakers. A contemporary record of Mill's studies from eight to thirteen is published in Bain's sketch of his life. It shows that the Autobiography rather understates the amount of work done. At the age of eight he began Latin, Euclid, and algebra, and was appointed schoolmaster to the younger children of the family. His main reading was still history, but he went through all the Latin and Greek authors commonly read in the schools and universities, besides several that are not commonly read by undergraduates. He was not taught to compose either in Latin or in Greek, and he was never an exact scholar; it was for the subject matter that he was required to read, and by the age of ten he could read Plato and Demosthenes with ease. His father's History of India was published in 1818; immediately thereafter, about the age of twelve, John began a thorough study of the scholastic logic, at the same time reading Aristotle's logical treatises in the original. In the following year he was introduced to political economy and studied Adam Smith and Ricardo with his father.

Not unnaturally the training which the younger Mill received has aroused amazement and criticism; and it is reasonable to doubt whether the material knowledge which he retained in the result was as valuable to him as his father imagined. It is important, however, to note that the really important part of the training was the close association which it involved with the strenuous character and vigorous intellect of his father. From his earliest days he spent much time in his father's study and habitually accompanied him on his walks in North London. Much therefore of what he acquired was assimilated. without difficulty, and the accuracy of his impressions was tested by his subsequently drafting a resume of their conversations. He thus learned early to grapple with difficulties and to accustom himself to the necessity of precision in argument and expression. It was an inevitable result of such an education that Mill acquired many of his father's speculative opinions, and his father's way of defending them. But he did not receive the impress passively and mechanically. "One of the grand objects of education," according to the elder Mill, "should be to generate a constant and anxious concern about evidence." The duty of collecting and weighing evidence for himself was at every turn impressed upon the boy; he was taught to accept no opinion on authority. He was deliberately educated as an apostle, but it was as an apostle of reasoned truth in human affairs, not as an apostle of any system of dogmatic tenets. It was to prevent any falling off from this high moral standard till it should become part of his being that his father kept the boy so closely with himself. Mill expressly says that his childhood was not unhappy. It seems unhappy only when we compare it with the normal life of a boy and decline to imagine its peculiar enjoyments and aspirations. Mill complains that his father often required more than could be expected of him, but his tasks were not so severe as to prevent him from growing up a healthy and high-spirited boy, though he was not constitutionally robust, and his pursuits were so different from those of other boys of the same age.

From May 1820 till July 1821 Mill was in France in the family of Sir Samuel Bentham, brother of Jeremy Bentham. Away from his father he maintained his laborious habits. Copious extracts from a diary kept by him at this time are given by Bain; they show how methodically he read and wrote, studied chemistry and botany, tackled advanced mathematical problems, made notes on the scenery and the people and customs of the country. He also gained a thorough acquaintance with the French language. On his return in 1821 he added to his work the study of psychology, and that of Roman law, which he read with John Austin, his father having half decided on the bar as the best profession open to him. In 1822, however, when he had just completed his seventeenth year, this intention was abandoned, and he entered as a clerk in the examiner's office of the India House, "with the understanding that he should be employed from the beginning in preparing drafts of despatches, and be thus trained up as a successor to those who then filled the highest departments of the office." Mill's work at the India House, which was henceforth his livelihood, did, not come before the public; hence some have scouted his political writings as the work of an abstract philosopher, entirely unacquainted with affairs. From the first he was more than a clerk, and after a short apprenticeship he was promoted, in 1828, to the responsible position of assistantexaminer with a salary of 600 a year. The duty of the so-called examiners was to examine the letters of the agents of the Company in India, and to draft instructions in reply. The character of the Company's government was almost entirely dependent upon their abilities as statesmen. For twenty years, from 1836 (when his father died) to 1856, Mill had charge of the Company's relations with the native states, and in 1856 he became chief of the office with a salary of £2000. In the hundreds of despatches that he wrote in this capacity, much, no doubt, was done in accordance with established routine, but few statesmen of his generation had a wider experience of the responsible application of the principles of government. About this work he said little in the Autobiography, probably because his main concern there was to expound the influences that effected his moral and mental development.

About the time of his entering the India House Mill read Dumont's exposition of Bentham's doctrines in the Traite de Legislation, which made a lasting impression upon him. When he laid down the last volume, he says, he had become a different being. It gave unity to the detached and fragmentary parts of his knowledge and beliefs. The impression was confirmed by the study of the English psychologists, as well as Condillac and Helvetius, and in1822-1823he established among a few friends the "Utilitarian" Society, taking the word as he tells us, from Galt's Annals of the Parish. Two newspapers were open to him - the Traveller, edited by a friend of Bentham's, and the Morning Chronicle, edited by his father's friend Black. One of his first efforts was a solid argument for freedom of discussion, in a series of letters to the Chronicle apropos of the prosecution of Richard Carlile. But he watched all public incidents with a vigilant eye, and seized every passing opportunity of exposing departures from sound principle in parliament and courts of justice. Another outlet was opened up for him (April 1824) by the starting of the Westminster Review, and still another in the following year in the Parliamentary History and Review. This year also he found a congenial occupation in editing Bentham's Rationale of Judicial Evidence. All the time, his mind full of public questions, he discussed eagerly with the many men of distinction who came to his father's house. He engaged in set discussions at a reading society formed at Grote's house in 1825, and in set debates at a Speculative Society formed in the same year.

From the Autobiography we learn that in 1826 Mill's enthusiasm was checked by a misgiving as to the value of the ends which he had set before him. This expression was the result, no doubt, of his strenuous training and the comparative lack of congenial friendships. His father was reserved, undemonstrative even to the pitch of chilling sternness, and among young Mill's comrades contempt of feeling was almost a watchword. Himself absorbed in abstract questions and projects of general philanthropy, he had been careless of personal attachment. On the other hand without experience he could not have been prepared for the actual slowness of the reformer's work. In 1826 he looked back to four years of eager toil. What were the results? He had become convinced that his comrades in the Utilitarian Society, never more than ten, had not the stuff in them for a world-shaking propaganda; the society itself was dissolved; the Parliamentary Review was a failure; the Westminster did not pay its expenses; Bentham's Judicial Evidence produced little effect on the reviewers. His own reception at the Speculative Debating Society, where he first measured his strength in public conflict, was calculated to produce selfdistrust. He found himself looked upon with curiosity as a precocious phenomenon, a "made man," an intellectual machine set to grind certain tunes. The outcome of this period of depression was a broadening of his outlook on the problems which he had set himself to solve. He now saw that regard for the public good was too vague an object for the satisfaction of a man's affections. It is a proof of the dominating force of his father's character that it cost the younger Mill such an effort to shake off his stern creed about poetry and personal emotion. Like Plato, the elder Mill would have put poets under ban as enemies of truth, and he subordinated private to public affections. Landor's maxims of "few acquaintances, fewer friends, no familiarities" had his cordial approval. These doctrines the younger Mill now felt himself forced in reason to abandon. Too much in awe of his father to make him a confidant, he wrestled in the gloomy solitude of his own mind. He gained from the struggle a more catholic view of human happiness, at delight in the poetry of nature and the affections as well as the poetry of heroic unselfishness, a disposition to study more sympathetically the point of view of opponents, a more courteous style of polemic, a hatred of sectarianism, an ambition,, no less noble and disinterested, but moderated to practical' possibilities.

In the course of the next few years he wrote comparatively little, but he continued his reading, and also derived much, benefit from discussions held twice a week at Grote's house in Threadneedle Street. Gradually also he had the satisfaction of seeing the debates in the Speculative Society becoming famous enough to attract men with whom it was profitable for him to interchange opinions, among others Maurice and John Sterling.. He ceased to attend the society in 1829, but he carried away from it the strengthening memory of failure overcome by persevering effort, and the important doctrinal conviction that a true system of political philosophy was "something much more complex and many-sided than he had previously had any idea of, and that its office was to supply, not a set of model institutions but principles from which the institutions suitable to any given circumstances might be deduced." The first sketch of Mill's political philosophy appeared in a series of contributions to the Examiner in the autumn of 1830 entitled "Prospects in France." He was in Paris soon after the July Revolution, and made the acquaintance of the leading spirits among the younger men; in his discussion of their proposals we find the germs of many thoughts afterwards more fully developed in his Representative Government. It is from this time that Mill's letters supply a connected account of his life (see Hugh Elliott, Letters of John Stuart Mill, 1910).

The letters in the Examiner may be taken as marking the close of his period of meditative search, and his return to hopeful aspiring activity. It was characteristic of his nature that he should be stirred to such delight by the Revolution in France, and should labour so earnestly to make his countrymen understand with what gravity and sobriety it had been effected.. Their own Reform Bill came soon after and it is again characteristic of Mill - at once of his enthusiasm and of his steady determination to do work that nobody else seemed able or willing to do - that we find him in the heat of the struggle in 1831 writing: to the Examiner a series of letters on "The Spirit of the Age" which drew from Carlyle the singular exclamation "Here is a new mystic!" How little this criticism was justified may be seen from the fact that Mill's inductive logic was the direct result of his aspirations after political stability as determined by the dominion of the wisest (Examiner letters). "Why is it," he asked, "that the multitude accept implicitly the decisions of the wisest, of the specially skilled, in physical science?" Because in physical science there is all but complete agreement in opinion. "And why this agreement?" Because all accept the same methods of investigation, the same tests of truth. Is it possible then to obtain unanimity as to the methods of arriving at conclusions in social and political matters, so as to secure similar agreement of opinion among the specially skilled, and similar general respect for their authority ? The same thought appears in a review of Herschel's Natural Philosophy, written about the same time. Mill remarks that the uncertainty hanging over the very elements of moral and social philosophy proves that the means of arriving at the truth in those sciences are not yet properly understood. "And whither," he adds, "can mankind so advantageously turn, in order to learn the proper means, and to form their minds to the proper habits, as to that branch of knowledge in which by universal acknowledgment the greatest number of truths have been ascertained, and the greatest possible degree of certainty arrived at ?" By 1831 the period of depression had passed; Mill's enthusiasm for humanity had been thoroughly reawakened, and had taken the definite shape of an aspiration to supply an unimpeachable method of search for conclusions in moral and social science. No mystic ever worked with warmer zeal than Mill. But his zeal encountered a check which baffled him for several years, and which left its mark in various inconsistencies and incoherences in his completed system. He had been bred by his father in a great veneration for the syllogistic logic as an antidote against confused thinking. He attributed to his early discipline in this logic an impatience of vague language which in all likelihood was really fostered in him by his study of the Platonic dialogues and of Bentham, for he always had in himself more 6f Plato's fertile ingenuity in canvassing the meaning of vague terms than the schoolman's rigid consistency in the use of them. Be this as it may, enthusiastic as he was for a new logic that might give certainty to moral and social conclusions, Mill was no less resolute that the new logic should stand in no antagonism to the old. In his Westminster review of Whately's Logic in 1828 (invaluable to all students of the genesis of Mill's logic) he appears, curiously enough, as an ardent and brilliant champion of the syllogistic logic against highfliers such as the Scottish philosophers who talk of "superseding" it by "a supposed system of inductive logic." His inductive logic must "supplement and not supersede." But for several years he searched in vain for the means of concatenation.

Meantime, while recurring again and again, as was his custom, to this cardinal difficulty, Mill worked indefatigably in other directions where he saw his way clear. The working of the new order in France, and the personalities of the leading men, had a profound interest for him; he wrote on the subject in the Examiner. He had ceased to write for the Westminster in 1828; but during the years 1832 and 1833 he contributed many essays to Tait's Magazine, the Jurist, and the Monthly Repository. In 1835 Sir William Molesworth founded the London Review with Mill as editor; it was amalgamated with the Wesminster (as the London and Westminster Review) in 1836, and Mill continued editor (latterly proprietor also) till 1840. Much of what he wrote then was subsequently incorporated in his systematic works: some of his essays were reprinted in his first two volumes of Dissertations and Discussions (1859). The essays on Bentham and Coleridge constituted the first manifesto of the new spirit which Mill sought to breathe into English Radicalism. But the reprinted papers give no just idea of the immense range of Mill's energy at this time. His position in the India Office, where alone he did work enough for most men, cut him off from entering parliament; but he laboured hard though ineffectually to influence the legislature from without by combating the disposition to rest and be thankful. In his Autobiography he admits that the attempt to form a Radical party in parliament at that time was chimerical.

It was in 1837, on reading Whewell's Inductive Sciences and re-reading Herschel, that Mill at last saw his way clear both to formulating the methods of scientific investigation and joining on the new logic as a supplement to the old. The Logic was published in 1843. In 1844 appeared his Essays on Some Unsettled Questions in Political Economy. These essays were worked out and written many years before, and show Mill in his first stage as a political economist. Four out of the five essays are elaborate and powerful solutions of perplexing technical problems - the distribution of the gains of international commerce, the influence of consumption on production, the definition of productive and unproductive labour, the precise relations between profits and wages. Though Mill appears here purely as the disciple of Ricardo, striving after more precise statement, and reaching forward to further consequences, we can well understand in reading these essays how about the time when he first sketched them he began to be conscious of power as an original and independent thinker.

That originality and independence became more conspicuous when he reached his second stage as a political economist, struggling forward towards the standpoint from which his systematic work was written. It would seem that in his fits of despondency one of the thoughts that marred his dreams of human improvement was the apparently inexorable character of economic laws, condemning thousands of labourers to a cramped and miserable existence, and thousands more to semistarvation. From this oppressive feeling he found relief in the thought set forth in the opening of the second book of his Political Economy - that, while the conditions of production have the necessity of physical laws, the distribution of what is produced among the various classes of producers is a matter of human arrangement, dependent upon alterable customs and institutions. There can be little doubt that this thought, whether or not in the clear shape that it afterwards assumed, was the germ of all that is most distinctive in his system of political economy. This system, which for many years subsequently was regarded as authoritative, has been subjected to vigorous criticism by later economists, and it is perhaps not too much to say that it now possesses mainly an historical interest. Its chief importance is perhaps the stress which it laid on the vital connexion which must subsist between true economic theory and the wider facts of social and national development.

While his great systematic works were in progress, Mill wrote very little on events or books of the day. He turned aside for a few months from his Political Economy during the winter of the Irish famine 0846-1847)to advocate the creation of peasantproprietorships as a remedy for distress and disorder in Ireland. He found time also to write elaborate articles on French history and Greek history in the Edinburgh Review apropos of Michelet, Guizot and Grote, besides some less elaborate essays.

The Political Economy was published in 1848. Mill could now feel that his main work was accomplished; he remained, however, on the alert for opportunities of useful influence, and pressed on with hardly diminished enthusiasm in his search for useful truth. Among other things, he made a more thorough study of socialist writers, with the result that, though he was not converted to any of their schemes as being immediately practicable, he began to look upon some more equal distribution of the produce of labour as a practicability of the remote future, and to dwell upon the prospect of such changes in human character as might render a stable society possible without the institution of private property. This he has called his third stage as a political economist, and he says that he was helped towards it by the lady, Mrs Taylor,' who became his wife in 1851. It is generally supposed that he writes with a lover's extravagance about this lady's powers when he compares her with Shelley and Carlyle. But a little reflection will show that he wrote with his usual accuracy and sobriety when he described her influence on him. He expressly says that he owed none of his technical doctrine to her, that she influenced only his ideals of life for the individual and for society; the only work perhaps which was directly inspired by her is the essay on the enfranchisement of women (Dissertations, vol. ii.). It is obvious from what he says that his inner life became very different after he threw off his father's authority. This new inner life was strengthened and enlarged by Mrs Taylor.

During the seven years of his married life Mill published less than in any other period of his career, but four of his most ' Mrs Taylor (Harriet Hardy) was the wife of John Taylor, a wholesale druggist in the city of London. She was a confirmed invalid, and lived in the country, where Mill visited her regularly for twenty years, with the full consent of her husband, a man of limited mental powers, but of high character and unselfishness. Mill's friendship with Mrs Taylor and their marriage in 1851 involved a break with his family (apparently due to his resentment at a fancied slight, not to any bitterness on their part), and his practical disappearance from society. (On these points see Mary Taylor, Mrs Mill's grand-daughter, in Elliott's edition of the Letters.) closely reasoned and characteristic works, the Liberty, the Utilitarianism, the Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform, and the Subjection of Women, besides his posthumously published essays on Nature and on the Utility of Religion, were thought out and partly written in collaboration with his wife. In 1856 he became head of the examiner's office in the India House, and for two years, till the dissolution of the Company in 1858, his official work, never a light task, kept him fully occupied. It fell to him as head of the office to write the defence of the Company's government of India when the transfer of its powers was proposed. Mill was earnestly opposed to the transfer, and the documents in which he substantiated the proud boast for the Company that "few governments, even under far more favourable circumstances, have attempted so much for the good of their subjects or carried so many of their attempts to a beneficial issue," and exposed the defects of the proposed new government, are models of trenchant and dignified pleading.

On the dissolution of the Company Mill was offered a seat in the new council, but declined, and retired with a pension of 1500. His retirement from official work was followed almost immediately by his wife's death at Avignon, whither they had come in the course of a tour. So great was the shock that for the rest of his life he spent most of his time at a villa at St Veran, near Avignon, returning to his Blackheath residence only for a short period in each year. He sought relief in active literary occupation, in politics, sociology and psychology. He published, with a touching dedication to his wife, the treatise on Liberty, which they had wrought out together. He then turned to politics, and published, in view of the impending Reform Bill, a pamphlet on parliamentary reform. The chief feature in this was an idea concerning which he and Mrs Mill often deliberated - the necessity of providing checks against uneducated democracy. His suggestion of a plurality of votes, proportioned to the elector's degree of education, was avowedly put forward only as an ideal; he admitted that no authentic test of education could for the present be found. An anonymous Conservative caught at the scheme in another pamphlet, proposing income as a test. Soon after Mill supported in Fraser's, still with the same object, Hare's scheme for the representation of minorities. In the autumn of the same year he turned to psychology, reviewing Bain's works in the Edinburgh Review. In his Representative Government (1860) he systematized opinions already put forward in many casual articles and essays. His Utilitarianism (published in Fraser's in 1861) was a closely-reasoned systematic attempt to answer objections to his ethical theory and remove misconceptions of it. He was especially anxious to make it clear that he included in "utility" the pleasures of the imagination and the gratification of the higher emotions, and to show how powerfully the good of mankind as a motive appealed to the imagination. His next treatise, The Subjection of Women, was not published till 1869.1 His Examination of Hamilton's Philosophy, published in 1865, had engaged a large share of his time for three years before.

While mainly occupied in those years with philosophical studies, Mill did not remit his interest in current politics. He supported the North in the American crisis of 1862, using all his strength to explain what has since been universally recognized as the issue really at stake in the struggle, the abolition of slavery. It was characteristic of the closeness with which he watched current events, and of his zeal in the cause of "lucidity," that when the Reader, an organ of science and unpartisan opinion, fell into difficulties in 1865 Mill joined with some distinguished men of science and letters in an effort to keep it afloat. He supplied part of the money for carrying it on, contributed several articles, and assisted the editor, Fraser Rae, with his advice. The effort was vain, though such men as Herbert Spencer, 1 He was one of the founders, with Mrs P. A. Taylor, Miss Emily Davies and others, of the first women's suffrage society, which developed into the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, and his writings are still the most important theoretical statement of the case for women's suffrage. He presented to Parliament the first petition on the subject (see further Blackburn, Women's Suffrage Record). Huxley, Tyndall, Cairnes, Mark Pattison, F. Harrison, Sir Frederick Pollock and Lockyer were among the contributors. In 1865 he agreed to stand as parliamentary candidate for Westminster, on conditions strictly in accordance with his principles. He would not canvass, nor pay agents to canvass for him, nor would he engage to attend to the local business of the constituency. He was with difficulty persuaded even to address a meeting of the electors. The story of this remarkable election has been told by James Beal, one of the most active supporters of Mill's candidature. In parliament he adhered to his life-long principle of doing only work that needed to be done, and that nobody else seemed equally able or willing to do. It may have been a consciousness of this fact which prompted a remark, made by the Speaker, that Mill's presence in parliament elevated the tone of debate. The impression made by him in parliament is in some danger of being forgotten, because he was not instrumental in carrying any great measure that might serve as an abiding memorial. But, although his first speech on the bill for the prevention of cattle diseases excited the opposition of country members, and a subsequent speech against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland was very unfavourably received, Mill thoroughly succeeded in gaining the ear of the House. The only speech made by him during his three years in parliament that was listened to with impatience was, curiously enough, his speech in favour of counteracting democracy by providing for the representation of minorities. His attack on the conduct of Governor Eyre in Jamaica was listened to, but with repugnance by the majority, although his action in this matter in and out of parliament was far from being ineffectual. He took an active part in the debates. on Disraeli's Reform Bill (moving an amendment to omit the word "man" and insert "person"), and helped to extort from the government several useful modifications of the Bill for the Prevention of Corrupt Practices. The reform of land tenure in Ireland, the representation of women, the reduction of the national debt, the reform of London government, the abrogation of the Declaration of Paris, were among the topics on which he spoke with marked effect. He took occasion more than once to enforce what he had often advocated in writing, England's duty to intervene in foreign politics in support of the cause of freedom. As a speaker Mill was somewhat hesitating, pausing occasionally as if to recover the thread of his argument, but he showed great readiness in extemporaneous debate. Viewed as a candidate for ministerial office, he might be regarded as a failure in parliament, but there can be no doubt that his career there greatly extended his influence.

Mill's subscription to the election expenses of Bradlaugh, and his attitude towards Governor Eyre, are generally regarded as the main causes of his defeat in the general election of 1868. But, as he suggests himself, his studied advocacy of unfamiliar projects of reform had made him unpopular with "moderate Liberals." He retired with a sense of relief to his cottage and his literary life at Avignon. His parliamentary duties and the quantity of correspondence brought upon him by increased publicity had absorbed nearly the whole of his time. The scanty leisure of his first recess had been devoted to writing his St Andrews rectorial address on higher education and to answering attacks on his criticism of Hamilton; of the second, to annotating in conjunction with Bain and Findlater, his father's Analysis of the Mind. Now he looked forward to a literary life, and his letters show how much he enjoyed the change. His little cottage was filled with books and newspapers; the beautiful country round it furnished him with a variety of walks; he read, wrote, discussed, walked, botanized. He was extremely fond of music, and was himself a fair pianist. His step-daughter, Miss Taylor (d. January 1907), was his constant companion after his wife's death. "Helen," he wrote to W. T. Thornton, an old colleague in the India House, "has carried out her long-cherished scheme (about which she tells me she consulted you) of a ` vibratory ' for me, and has made a pleasant covered walk, some 30 ft. long, where I can vibrate in cold or rainy weather. The terrace, you must know, as it goes round two sides of the house, has got itself XVIII. 15 a dubbed the ` semi-circumgyratory.' In addition to this, Helen has built me a herbarium, a little room fitted up with closets for my plants, shelves for my botanical books, and a great table whereon to manipulate them all. Thus, you see, with my herbarium, my vibratory, and my semi-circumgyratory, I am in clover; and you may imagine with what scorn I think of the House of Commons, which, comfortable club as it is said to be, could offer me none of these comforts, or, more perfectly speaking, these necessaries of life." Mill was an enthusiastic botanist all his life long, and a frequent contributor of notes and short papers to the Phytologist. One of the things that he looked forward to during his last journey to Avignon was seeing the spring flowers and completing a flora of the locality. His delight in scenery frequently appears in letters written to his friends during his summer and autumn tours.

Yet he did not relax his laborious habits nor his ardent outlook on human affairs. The essays in the fourth volume of his Dissertations - on endowments, on land, on labour, on metaphysical and psychological questions - were written for the Fortnightly Review at intervals after his short parliamentary career. One of his first tasks was to send his treatise on the Subjection of Women (written 1861, published 1869, many editions) through the press. The essay on Theism was written soon after. The last public work in which he engaged was the starting of the Land Tenure Reform Association. The interception by the state of the unearned increment, and the promotion of co-operative agriculture, were the most striking features in his programme. He wrote in the Examiner and made a public speech in favour of the association a few months before his death. The secret of the ardour with which he took up this question probably was his conviction that a great struggle was impending in Europe between labour and capital. He regarded his project as a timely compromise.

Mill died at Avignon on the 8th of May 1873. He was a man of extreme simplicity in his method of life. Though occasionally irritable in speech, in his written polemics he was remarkable for courtesy to opponents and a capacity to understand their point of view. His references to his friends were always generous, and he was always ready to assist those whose work needed help. For example, he desired to guarantee the cost of the first books of Bain and Herbert Spencer. A statue in bronze was placed on the Thames Embankment, and there is a good portrait by Watts (a copy of which, by Watts himself, was hung in the National Gallery).

The influence which Mill's works exercised upon contemporary English thought can scarcely be overestimated. His own writings and those of his successors (e.g. J. E. Cairnes and Alexander Bain) practically held the field during the third quarter of the 19th century and even later. In philosophy his chief work was to systematize and expound the utilitarianism of his father and Bentham (see Utilitarianism). He may, in fact, be regarded as the final exponent of that empirical school of philosophy which owed its impulse to John Locke, and is generally spoken of as being typically English. Its fundamental characteristic is the emphasis laid upon human reason, i.e. upon the duty incumbent upon all thinkers to investigate for themselves rather than to accept the authority of others. Knowledge must be based upon experience. In reasserting and amplifying the empirical conclusions of his predecessors, especially in the sphere of ethics, Mill's chief function was the introduction of the humanist element. This was due, no doubt, to his revulsion from the sternness of his upbringing and the period of stress through which he passed in early manhood, but also to the sympathetic and emotional qualities which manifested themselves in his early manhood. We have seen, for example, that he was led to investigate the subject of logic because he found in attempting to advance his humanitarian schemes in politics an absence of that fundamental agreement which he recognized as the basis of scientific advance. Both his logical and his metaphysical studies were thus undertaken as the pre-requisites of a practical theory of human development. Though he believed that the lower classes were not yet ripe for socialism, with the principles of which he (unlike James Mill and Bentham) was in general agreement, his whole life was devoted to the amelioration of the conditions of the working classes. This fact, no doubt, should be taken into account in any detailed criticism of the philosophic work; it was taken up not as an end but as ancillary to a social and ethical system. Reference to the articles on Logic, Metaphysics, &c., will show that subsequent criticism, however much it has owed by way of stimulus to Mill's strenuous rationalism, has been able to point to much that is inconsistent, inadequate and even superficial in his writings. Two main intellectual movements from widely different standpoints have combined to diminish his influence. On the one hand there has arisen a school of thinkers of the type of Thomas Hill Green, who have brought to bear on his metaphysical views the idealism of modern German thinkers. On the other hand are the evolutionists, who have substituted for the utilitarian ideal of the "greatest happiness" those of "race-preservation" and the "survival of the fittest" (see Ethics, ad. fin.; Spencer). In the sphere of psychology, likewise - e.g. in connexion 'with Mill's doctrine of Association of Ideas and the phrase "Mental Chemistry," by which he sought to meet the problems which Associationism left unsolved - modern criticism and the experimental methods of the psycho-physiological school have set up wholly new criteria, with a new terminology and different fields of investigation (see Psychology).

A similar fate has befallen Mill's economic theories. The title of his work, Principles of Political Economy, with some of their Applications to Social Philosophy, though open to criticism, indicated a less narrow and formal conception of the field of the science than had been common amongst his predecessors. He aimed in fact at producing a work which might replace in ordinary use the Wealth of Nations, which in his opinion was "in many parts obsolete and in all imperfect." Adam Smith had invariably associated the general principles of the subject with their applications, and in treating those applications had perpetually appealed to other and often far larger considerations than pure political economy affords. And in the same spirit Mill desired, whilst incorporating all the results arrived at in the special science by Smith's successors, to exhibit purely economic phenomena in relation to the most advanced conceptions of his own time in the general philosophy of society, as Smith had done in reference to the philosophy of his century. This design he certainly failed to realize. His book is very far indeed from being a "modern Adam Smith." It is an admirably lucid, and even elegant, exposition of the Ricardian economics, the Malthusian theory being of course incorporated with these; but, notwithstanding the introduction of many minor novelties, it is in its scientific substance little or nothing more.

With respect to economic method he shifted his position, yet to the end occupied uncertain ground. In the fifth of his early essays he asserted that the method a priori is the only mode of investigation in the social sciences, and that the method a posteriori "is altogether inefficacious in those sciences as a means of arriving at any considerable body of valuable truth." When he wrote his Logic he had learned from Comte that the a posteriori method - in the form which he chose to call "inverse deduction" - was the only mode of arriving at truth in general sociology; and his admission of this at once renders the essay obsolete. But, unwilling to relinquish the a priori method of his youth, he tries to establish a distinction of two sorts of economic inquiry, one of which, though not the other, can be handled by that method. Sometimes he speaks of political economy as a department "carved out of the general body of the science of society;" whilst on the other hand the title of his systematic work implies a doubt whether political economy is a part of "social philosophy" at all, and not rather a study preparatory and auxiliary to it. Thus, on the logical as well as the dogmatic side, he halts between two opinions. Notwithstanding his misgivings and even disclaimers, he yet remained as to method a member of the old school, and never passed into the new "historical" school.

Bibliography. - Works: System of Logic (2 vols., 1843; 9th ed., 1875; "People's" ed., 1884); Essays on some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1844, ed. 1874); Principles of Political Economy (2 vols., 1848; many ed., especially ed. by W. J. Ashley, 1909); On Liberty (1859; ed. Courtney, 1892; W. B. Columbine, 1903; with introd. Pringle-Pattison, 1910); Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform (1859); Dissertations and Discussions (i., ii. 1859; iii., 1867; iv., 1876); Considerations on Representative Government (1861; 3rd ed. 1865); Utilitarianism (1863); Examination of Sir W. Hamilton's Philosophy (1865) Aug. Comte and Positivism (1865, ed. 1908); Inaugural Address at the University of St Andrews (1867); England and Ireland (1868); Subjection of Women (1869; ed. with introd. by Stanton Coit, 1906); Chapters and Speeches on the Irish Land Question (1870). The Autobiography appeared in 1873 (ed. 1908), and Three Essays on Religion (1874). Many of these have been translated into German, and there is a German edition by Th. Gomperz (12 vols., 1873-1880). A convenient edition in the New Universal Library appeared between 1905 and 1910.

Biographical and Critical

Many of Mill's letters are published in Mrs Grote's life of her husband, in Duncan's Life of Herbert Spencer, in the Memories of Caroline Fox, and in Kingsley's letters. There are also editions of the correspondence with Gustave d'Eichtal and Comte (specially that of Levy-Bruhl, 1899). By far the most illuminating collection is that of Hugh Elliott, Letters of John Stuart Mill (2 vols., 1910), which contains letters to John Sterling, Carlyle, E. Lytton Bulwer (Lord Lytton), John Austin, Alex. Bain, and many leading French and German writers and politicians. These letters are essential to an understanding of Mill's life and thought. Besides the Autobiography and many references in the writings of Mill's friends (e.g. Alex. Bain's Autobiography, 1904), see further A. Bain, John Stuart Mill, a Personal Criticism (1882); Fox Bourne, Life of J. S. Mill (1873); John (Viscount) Morley, Miscellanies (1877), ii. 239-327) J. E. Cairnes, J. S. Mill (1873), on economic theories; W. L. Courtney, Mataphysics of J. S. Mill (1879) and Life (1889); Douglas, John Stuart Mill, a Study of his Philosophy (1895), and Ethics of J. S. Mill (1897); Albee, Hist. of Eng. Utilitarianism (1902); Sir Leslie Stephen, The English Utilitarians (1900); J. MacCunn, Six Radical Thinkers (1907); Fred. Harrison, Tennyson, Ruskin, Mill (1899); John Watson, Comte, Mill and Spencer (1895); T. Whittaker, Comte and Mill (1905); Charles Douglas, J. S. Mill, a Study of his Philosophy (1895); J. Rickaby, Free Will and Four English Philosophers (1906); J. M. Robertson, Modern Humanists (1891); D. G. Ritchie, Principles of State Interference (1891); W. Graham, English Political Philosophy from Hobbes to Maine (1899). There are also a number of valuable French and German criticisms, e.g. Taine, Positivisme anglais, etude sur Stuart Mill (Paris, 1864); F. A. Lange, Mills Ansichten fiber die soziale Frage (Duisburg, 1866); Littre, A. Comte et Stuart Mill (3rd ed., Paris, 1877); Cauret, Philosophic de Stuart Mill (Paris, 1885); Gomperz, John S. Mill, ein Nachruf (Vienna, 1889); S. Sanger,. J. S. Mill, sein Leben and Lebenswerk (Stuttgart, 1901); S. Becher, Erkenntnistheoretische Untersuchungen zu Stuart Mills Theorie der Kausalitiit (1906); E. M. Kantzer, La Religion de J. S. Mill (1906). See also histories of modern philosophy.

See further LOGIC (Historical Sketch); PSYCHOLOGY; ASSOCIATION OF IDEAS. (W. M.; J. M. M.)


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[[File:|thumb|right|John Stuart Mill]] John Stuart Mill (May 20, 1806May 8, 1873), was an English philosopher and political economist. He was a classical liberal thinker of the 19th century. He was for utilitarianism, the ethical theory first proposed by his godfather Jeremy Bentham.

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