John Stuart Mill on Classical Liberalism and Modern Liberalism

Topics: Liberalism, John Stuart Mill, Political philosophy Pages: 6 (2106 words) Published: May 30, 2012
John Stuart Mill was a classical liberal thinker and believed, through the influence of his father, that man deserved to live a life that promoted the greatest amount of happiness with limited government intervention. Mill grew up with the belief that there was no God and therefore believed that man is born inherently good; government should be limited to allow individuals to make their own decisions from their inherently good instincts; economic freedom provided individuals with the protection of rights and promoted the ideology that Mill stood for most, Utilitarianism which highly influenced classical liberalism. The philosophy of John Stuart Mill has influenced mankind and classical liberalism throughout history. John Stuart Mill, a philosopher in the 1800s, was an atheist, which made an impact on his belief of the role of man. His belief system came from his father James Mill and his father’s friend Jeremy Bentham. Mill believed that there is no such thing as God in this world, which explains why he believed that there is no absolute truth. “Mill was also critical of the intellectual laziness that permitted belief in an omnipotent and benevolent God. He felt, following his father, that the world as we find it could not possibly have come from such a God given the evils rampant in it; either his power is limited or he is not wholly benevolent” Without absolute truth therefore morality is determined by an individual’s reflection of right or wrong. Mill believed that man is born inherently good which means humans have the ability to make good decisions that satisfy them. Humankind has good instincts and therefore they would not make decisions that would harm anybody. James Mill, the father of John Stuart Mill, was a strong utilitarian along with his friend Jeremy Bentham. These men molded Mill’s ideology. “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain and the privation of pleasure.” Utilitarianism was described as “…the greatest happiness principle…” which John Stuart Mill lived by. He felt everyone should be able to freely express his or her opinions and since there is no God and there is no absolute truth, morality has to be chosen by each person. Mill strongly argued that people could govern themselves rather than a government being involved and having control over their lives including an individuals opinion and actions. Mill’s philosophy has greatly influenced classical liberalism in our society and how people think. “The only freedom which deserves the name; is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their effects to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual” One of the mill’s biggest impacts was in regard to his perspective on women. In his time period, women were not treated equally. Women were not receiving what men had the rights to, such as the right to be educated, the right to be civilized, and the right to vote because in his time only educated people could vote. From his philosophy, women did not instantly gain all these rights that man had, however people’s view on women were challenged. He promoted freedom and the idea that everyone should have the right to express their thoughts and opinions except children and those who were mentally ill were excluded from these rights. Mill thought woman could make proper decisions and be educated as a man could. From Mill’s standpoint, the majority could not oppress the minority because even though ten people have the same idea and opinion, two people who have different opinions can also be right and should be allowed the same freedom of speech. Utilitarianism was the main principle Mill followed. This is the belief that people can be self governed and live a life that gives them the...
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