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John Stuart Mill

(1806 - 1873)

Biography of John Stuart Mill:

English philosopher and writer, son of the economist historian and philosopher James Mill, John Stuart Mill is one of the largest English thinkers of liberalism. Induced by his father, he early shows aptitudes for studies. He knows Greek and Latin at the age of eight. In 1822, he enters into the East India Company in which his father works. Very early, he participates in the works of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham's school (1748-1832).

John Stuart Mill illustrates himself initially as journalist in reviews praising a radical liberalism. From 1835 to 1840, he edits "The London and Westminster Review", organ of the Radical party. Disciple and friend of Auguste Comte whom he financially supports, Mill is deeply marked by positivism. From 1856 to 1858, he holds his father's position at the East India Company, then settles in France, in his house close to Avignon. Elected to the House of Commons in 1865, John Stuart Mill defends the right to vote for women and their emancipation, becoming in that way one of the precursors of feminism.

As regards morals, John Stuart Mill adapts the Jeremy Bentham's utilitarianism of which he perceives limits. He bases duty on the research of the general happiness and extends it to law and policy. More that Bentham he put the emphasis on the qualitative aspect of happiness and takes more into account the difference between the individual happiness and the common happiness. The aim of humanity is to reduce this difference. As long as it exists, the other people's good should take first place over the personal happiness. One thus opposes the altruistic utilitarianism of Mill to the egoistic utilitarianism of Bentham.

Influenced by Hume, the philosophy of John Stuart Mill is an empiricism in which the perception of the world reality is based on the individual experiment and the associations of ideas. In logic, he develops an original theory of induction and processes of experimentation. Liberal Socialist, Mill develops a concrete political theory, which strongly marked the economic and political liberalism in England. Atheist from childhood, he remains relatively discreet on his religious convictions in his works.
Bibliography : M. De Tocqueville on Democracy in America (1840), A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive (1843), Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1844), Principles of Political Economy (1848), On Liberty (1859), Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform (1859), Considerations on Representative Government (1861), Utilitarianism (1861), An Examination of Sir Hamilton's Philosophy (1865), Auguste Comte and Positivism (1865), The Subjection of Women (1869), Autobiography (1873), The Utility of Religion (essay, 1874).

Quotes of John Stuart Mill

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