John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill John Stuart Mill[1†]

John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 7 May 1873) was an English philosopher, political economist, politician, and civil servant[1†]. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism, he contributed widely to social theory, political theory, and political economy[1†]. He was prominent as a publicist in the reforming age of the 19th century, and remains of lasting interest as a logician and an ethical theorist[1†][2†].

Early Years and Education

John Stuart Mill was born on May 20, 1806, in London, England[1†][2†]. He was the eldest son of the British historian, economist, and philosopher James Mill[1†][2†]. His education was conducted entirely by his father, who was a strict disciplinarian[1†][2†]. By his eighth year, he had read in the original Greek Aesop’s Fables, Xenophon’s Anabasis, and the whole of the historian Herodotus[2†]. He was acquainted with the satirist Lucian, the historian of philosophy Diogenes Laërtius, the Athenian writer and educational theorist Isocrates, and six dialogues of Plato[2†]. He had also read a great deal of history in English[2†]. At the age of eight, he started Latin, the geometry of Euclid, and algebra and began to teach the younger children of the family[2†]. His main reading was still history, but he went through all the Latin and Greek authors commonly read in the schools and universities and, by the age of 10 could read Plato and the Athenian statesman Demosthenes with ease[2†]. About the age of 12, he began a thorough study of Scholastic logic, at the same time reading Aristotle’s logical treatises in the original[2†]. In the following year, he was introduced to political economy and studied the work of the Scottish political economist and philosopher Adam Smith and that of the English economist David Ricardo[2†].

Career Development and Achievements

John Stuart Mill’s career began at the age of seventeen when he entered employment at the East India Company, where his father also worked[3†]. He continued working for the company for over 30 years, gradually rising to become chief examiner of correspondence[3†]. Mill was precocious, and was publishing articles defending his inherited doctrine by his early teens[3†].

Mill worked in the office of inspection of the East Indies until the dissolution of the company in 1858[4†]. From 1865 and for three years, he was a member of the British Parliament for the Liberal Party[4†]. During his time in Parliament, Mill advocated for many liberal reforms, including labor rights, universal suffrage, and the protection of personal liberties[1†].

Mill was an influential 19th-century British philosopher, political economist, and author of the leading economics textbook for 40 years[5†]. He was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory that promotes actions that maximize happiness and well-being for the majority[2†]. His works have had a significant influence on the development of social and political theory, and his ideas continue to be studied and applied in various fields[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

John Stuart Mill’s body of work is extensive, reflecting his wide-ranging interests and profound influence on philosophical thought[6†]. Here are some of his main works:

Analysis and Evaluation

John Stuart Mill’s work has been widely studied and analyzed by scholars and philosophers around the world[7†][8†][9†][10†][11†]. His contributions to the discourse on classical liberalism were highly influential during the 19th century and continue to have a strong impact in the field of political economy[7†]. His writings, especially “Utilitarianism” and “On Liberty,” are considered seminal works in the field[7†].

Mill’s “Art of Life,” which is his account of practical reason, is another significant aspect of his thought[9†]. It is divided into three departments: “Morality, Prudence or Policy, and Æsthetics,” reflecting his comprehensive approach to philosophy[9†].

His work in philosophy and economics was always in service of controversial issues of public policy[8†]. He was a public figure and more than just a writer[7†][8†]. In many ways, he was the quintessential Victorian intellectual, bringing his critical faculties to bear on all the major issues of the day in a manner that was accessible to the average intelligent layperson[8†].

Personal Life

John Stuart Mill had a close relationship with Harriet Taylor[12†][13†]. They met when he was twenty-five and she was already married[12†]. They maintained a close relationship for twenty years, eventually marrying a few years after her husband’s death[12†]. It is believed that Taylor and Mill did not engage in a sexual relationship until the death of her first husband[13†]. Harriet Taylor had a significant influence on Mill’s life and work[12†].

Conclusion and Legacy

John Stuart Mill’s legacy is vast and enduring. His work has significantly shaped the fields of philosophy, economics, and political theory[2†][1†][14†][15†][16†]. He is often described as one of the most influential English-speaking philosophers of the 19th century[16†]. His ideas about freedom and liberty continue to be at the heart of political arguments today[16†].

Mill advocated for the integration of economic theory, philosophy, and social awareness in politics for the greater good[14†]. His enduring legacy as a liberal thinker and ethical theorist continues to shape contemporary discourse[14†]. He dominated liberal thought during the nineteenth century with insights offered into the harm principle, free will, the despotism of custom, experiments in living, utilitarianism, the marketplace of ideas, and electoral reform[15†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - John Stuart Mill [website] - link
  2. Britannica - John Stuart Mill [website] - link
  3. Great Thinkers - John Stuart Mill [website] - link
  4. Economipedia - John Stuart Mill [website] - link
  5. Investopedia - Who Was John Stuart Mill, and What Is He Best Known For? [website] - link
  6. Great Thinkers - Major Woks - John Stuart Mill [website] - link
  7. SparkNotes - Selected Works of John Stuart Mill [website] - link
  8. Cambridge University Press - John Stuart Mill: A Biography [website] - link
  9. Oxford Academic - John Stuart Mill and the Art of Life [website] - link
  10. Springer Link - Classical Political Economy - John Stuart Mill Interpretation Since Schumpeter [website] - link
  11. Cambridge University Press - Journal of the History of Economic Thought - Volume 21 Issue 4 - John Stuart Mill's Method In Principle and Practice: A Review of the Evidence [website] - link
  12. Notable Biographies - John Stuart Mill Biography [website] - link
  13. SunSigns - John Stuart Mill Biography, Life, Interesting Facts [website] - link
  14. SuperMoney - John Stuart Mill’s Legacy: Philosophy, Economics, and Political Impact [website] - link
  15. Tutor2U - John Stuart Mill (1806−73) [website] - link
  16. BBC - John Stuart Mill: Toby Young on philosopher's legacy [website] - link
Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License 4.0; additional terms may apply.
Ondertexts® is a registered trademark of Ondertexts Foundation, a non-profit organization.