Mill, John Stuart


Mill, John Stuart

biographical name

(born May 20, 1806, London, Eng.—died May 8, 1873, Avignon, France) British philosopher and economist, the leading expositor of utilitarianism. He was educated exclusively and exhaustively by his father, James Mill. By age 8 he had read in the original Greek Aesop's Fables, Xenophon's Anabasis, and all of Herodotus, and he had begun a study of Euclid's geometry; at age 12 he began a thorough study of scholastic logic. In 1823 he cofounded the Utilitarian Society with Jeremy Bentham, though he would later significantly modify the utilitarianism he inherited from Bentham and his father to meet the criticisms it encountered. In 1826 he and Bentham cofounded London University (now University College). From 1828 to 1856 he was an assistant examiner in India House, where from 1836 he was in charge of the East India Company's relations with the Indian states. In the 1840s he published his great systematic works in logic and political economy, chiefly A System of Logic (2 vol., 1843) and Principles of Political Economy (2 vol., 1848). As head of the examiner's office in India House from 1856 to 1858 he wrote a defense of the company's government of India when the transfer of its powers was proposed. In 1859 he published On Liberty, a trenchant defense of individual freedom. His Utilitarianism (1863) is a closely reasoned attempt to answer objections to his ethical theory and to address misconceptions about it; he was especially insistent that “utility” include the pleasures of the imagination and the gratification of the higher emotions and that his system include a place for settled rules of conduct. In 1869 he published The Subjection of Women (written 1861), now the classical theoretical statement of the case for woman suffrage. Prominent as a publicist in the reforming age of the 19th century, he remains of lasting interest as a logician and ethical theorist. See also Mill's methods.

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