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Why was John Stuart Mill important?

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) is to this day studied most for his work on ethics, which codified utilitarianism, one of the three major philosophical moral systems, along with virtue ethics and deontology. However, he had important political influence, too, as a British progressive, and also codified the empirical philosophy of science. His contributions to both democratic progress and the philosophy of science were so influential that they are often taken for granted politically and in definitions of science, without a perceived need to trace their authorship.

What were some of John Stuart Mill's achievements?

Mill's father's interests and connections set the direction for his son, although Mill ultimately chose his own path based on life experience and the influence of his wife. Mill's father, James, was a philosopher and economist, as well as an official in the East India Company. J.S. Mill also worked in that company until he retired when the British government took over the company's administration in India in 1857. Mill edited the Westminster Review in the 1830s and was a member of Parliament between 1865 and 1868. Overall, Mill was dedicated to getting the educated public of Great Britain to accept scientific solutions to political, social, and economic problems, although he also placed great value on humanistic concerns as informed by the arts and life itself.

What are some of John Stuart Mill's influential publications?

In his System of Logic (1843), Mill added to formal logic a system of evidentiary proof to show how conclusions about matters of fact were justified. He also updated Francis Bacon's (1561-1626) analysis of causation, and built on David Hume's (1711-1776) theory that causes are not logically connected to their effects, and that causal relationships are no more than constant conjunctions of types of events.

In Principles of Political Economy (1848) Mill identified a gap between what was measured in economics and

John Stuart Mill was a Member of Parliament, political theorist, economist, and philosopher who was a utilitarianian (Art Archive).

John Stuart Mill was a Member of Parliament, political theorist, economist, and philosopher who was a utilitarianian (Art Archive).

human values, such as the preservation of the environment and limited population. He argued that the ideal economy would be made up of worker-owned cooperatives.

Mill's On Liberty (1859) was his most contested work because it was an attack on the leveling effects of social opinion. Mill thought that democratic societies imposed conventions on their members that did not allow for much individual experimentation in life styles. His more conservative contemporaries objected to the freedoms of opinion he championed, as well as his idea that if what others consider a vice does not harm them, they have no right to interfere with an individual who practices it. His Utilitarianism (1861) argued for the greatest good for the greatest number of people, in which the greatest good is defined as happiness.

His On the Subjection of Women (1869) has endured as a classic feminist work. His last major work, Three Essays on Religion (1874), was a rational perspective on religion, but was neither agnostic nor atheistic. Mill reasoned that there probably was a God, but that the amount of human suffering in the world made it unlikely that God was very benevolent toward human beings.

What did John Stuart Mill think about Jeremy Bentham's "pleasure principle"?

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) had introduced the idea that the only thing good in itself was pleasure. By the time Mill wrote his ethics, this was widely known as Bentham's Pleasure Principle. Mill recognized the value of pleasure, but was more interested in happiness.

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