John Stuart Mill

Topics: Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Ethics Pages: 5 (1427 words) Published: February 10, 2013
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John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was the eldest son of James Mill. His father was a Scottish historian, economist, and philosopher who became successful in propagating the radical philosophical morals of Utilitarianism1. Encouraged by his father, John displayed early aptitudes for studies; by the age of eight, John had learned Greek and Latin. By fourteen, he had spent considerable time mastering the basics of economic theory and studying the work in logic and mathematics1. His father’s underlying plan was to persuade John into a major advocate into his own ambitions. In his late teens, John worked with his father in the East India Company and would eventually occupy his father’s position as Chief Examiner. It was within this period when John became inspiringly influenced by philosopher Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian philosophy2. John would study Bentham’s various fragments on the theory of legal evidence and would spend many hours editing Bentham’s manuscripts. In 1826, John would suffer from depression. His constant stress of education and his father’s demanding analytical training had finally taken its toll. At this point, Mill began to re-evaluate theories that he formally embraced. He felt he was emotionally stunted and his ability to feel had been compromised by his own intellect1. He sought for principles that considered human well-being as opposed to the limitations of “natural rights”2. Although Mill believed Bentham’s theories were flawed, he would not fully abandon utilitarianism but enhance the positive aspects of his moral ideology3. He would use the best parts in sequence with his research of general happiness in relation to policy and law. It is certain that Mill’s endeavours towards positivism are deeply marked. In 1861, Mill’s writes an essay titled Utilitarianism1 which would be his most famous work. The essay provides moral support and value towards Bentham’s philosophy while contending its misconceptions1. Mill’s definition of utilitarianism as a moral philosophy is based on the foundation that: “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”3 Simply put, Utilitarianism is the moral ideology that doing what is morally right, results in the utmost happiness for the maximum number of people. To increase the desire of common happiness as opposed to individual happiness. Mill definition of happiness is; “pleasure and the absence of pain”1. He argues that pleasure can differ in quality and quantity. He explains that utilitarianism originates from ``natural`` emotions that exist within our human nature1. In essence, if society were to adopt this morality of simply doing what makes them happy, a naturally internalized code of ethics would be formed. In 1865, Mill`s was elected to the House of Commons1. Although his performance was generally commended, he was reluctant in compromising his own principles. Although influenced by the common good of utilitarianism, he wrote on several occasions the importance of individuals. Mill`s campaigning mainly consisted in the equality of Women. Despite the little influence from his mother, Harriet Barrow, Mill`s wrote Subjection of Women1 - an inspiring essay for those working towards the emancipation of women. Mill`s would defend the suffrage for women, the right to vote, and equal rights in women’s education. Mill`s became one of the precursors of feminism and recognized women`s rights were an essential step toward the moral improvement of society. John Stuart Mill’s intentions were to show humans how they could accommodate themselves to the world and to one another. His aim was the enhancement and progression of humanity through the principle of utility. Known as "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the 19th century”1, Mill`s developed a concrete social theory influencing the economic and political liberalism that still stands today.

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