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John Stuart Mill

Introduction to John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher-economist. He had a great impact on 19th-century British thought, not only in philosophy and economics but also in the areas of political science, logic, and ethics. See also Thematic Essay: British Political and Social Thought.

Mill was born in London on May 20, 1806. He was given an unusually early and extensive education by his father, James Mill, beginning the study of Greek at the age of three. At the age of 17 he had completed advanced and thorough courses of study in Greek literature and philosophy, chemistry, botany, psychology, and law. In 1822 Mill began to work as a clerk for his father in the examiner’s office of the India House, and six years later he was promoted to the post of assistant examiner. Until 1856 he had charge of the company’s relations with the princely states of India. In the latter year, Mill became chief of the examiner’s office, a position he held until the dissolution of the company in 1858, when he retired. Mill lived in Saint Véran, near Avignon in France, until 1865, when he entered Parliament as a member from Westminster. Failing to secure reelection in the general election of 1868, he returned to France, where he studied and wrote until his death at Avignon on May 8, 1873.

Mill stands as a bridge between the 18th-century concern for liberty, reason, and science and the 19th-century trend toward empiricism and collectivism. In philosophy, he systematized the utilitarian doctrines of his father and Jeremy Bentham in such works as Utilitarianism (1863), basing knowledge upon human experience and emphasizing human reason. In political economy, Mill advocated those policies that he believed most consistent with individual liberty, and he emphasized that liberty could be threatened as much by social as by political tyranny. He is probably most famous for his essay “On Liberty” (1859). He studied pre-Marxian socialist doctrine, and, although he did not become a socialist, he worked actively for improvement of the conditions of the working people. In Parliament, Mill was considered a radical, because he supported such measures as public ownership of natural resources, equality for women (see Women’s Rights), compulsory education, and birth control. His advocacy of women’s suffrage in the debates on the Reform Bill of 1867 led to the formation of the suffrage movement (see Suffrage). Mill’s other major writings include Principles of Political Economy (1848), The Subjection of Women (1869), his Autobiography (1873), and Three Essays on Religion (1874).” (1)


Notes and References

  • Information about John Stuart Mill in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
  • Guide to John Stuart Mill

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    • Article Name: John Stuart Mill
    • Author: Danny W.
    • Description: Introduction to John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher-economist. He had a great impact on [...]

    This entry was last updated: August 24, 2014


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