John Stuart Mill

Topics: John Stuart Mill, Democracy, Liberalism Pages: 7 (2378 words) Published: March 3, 2015
J.S. Mill
He was the most influential thinker of 19th century. The importance of his political theory is that liberalism made a transition from laissez faire to state centered, from negative to positive concept of liberty and from an atomic to more social conception of individual. Mill’s criticism of Bentham’s utilitarianism was one of the most important contributions to political thought. Published the History of India in 1818

His essays “On Liberty” (1859) and “The Subjection of Women” (1861) were the classic elaborations of liberal thought on important issues like law, rights and liberty. His essay on “The Considerations on Representatives Government” (1861) gives an outline of his ideal government based on proportional representation, minorities’ protection and self-government. His pamphlets “Utilitarianism” (1863) endorsed the Bentham’s principle of greatest happiness of greatest number, yet he make a departure from Bentham that this principle could only be defended if one distinguished happiness from pleasure

Utilitarianism and J.S. Mill
“Pushpin is as good as poetry” “It is better to be a man dissatisfied than a pig satisfied. It is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a man satisfied” J.S. Mill was a well read person. He was influenced by the Greek thoughts of Plato and Socrates. He has incorporated some aspects of Socrates and platonic tradition into liberalism to defend liberalism and to revise it. Bentham has established that pleasure is a quantitative term not qualitative term. According to Bentham in pleasure there is no distinction whether a man derives pleasure by playing some games or by reading poetry. Therefore pleasures don’t differ in quantity and quality in individual. However, Mill postulated that pleasures do differ in quality. According to him not only pleasure but individuals also differs each other. Some people will gain greater pleasure reading poetry than playing games. Mills, asserted that the chief deficiency in Bentham’s ethics was the neglect of individual character, instead emphasis on the feelings and imagination as part of good life. In this way Mills consider happiness and the dignity of man, and not principle of pleasure, the chief end of life. Mills opined that there is a difference between man and animal, animals are after the satisfaction of their appetite. However man looks beyond because he is capable of intellectual and moral pleasures. Hence he suggests that it is better to be a man dissatisfied rather than satisfied by such lower things which satisfy animals. (Mills distinguished between higher and lower pleasures- the greater human pleasure meant an increase not only in the quantity but also in the quality of goods enjoyed) Mills pointed out that every human action had three aspects

1. The moral aspect of right and wrong
2. The aesthetic aspects (beauty)
3. Sympathetic aspect of its liveableness

According to mills, these are the important ingredients for individual self-development that will determine one’s human happiness and for social progress. Mill also stated the pleasures could not measure objectively. He objected to felicific calculus as absurd because it doesn’t measure the quality aspect of an individual. According to Mills state should act as an instrument to bring transformation on human beings. For mills, utility is the ultimate appeal to all ethical questions and use along with liberty which he consider it as end in itself. To Bentham liberty is subordinate to utility. Bentham individual is egoist and self centered. Mill’s individual is moral and social. Thus, J.S. Mill in order to revise utilitarianism contradicts the basic tenets of Benthanism. Benthansim is materialism where as Mill is bringing Idealism. Hence it is said that “He is the Peter who has defied his master”

“Mill as a prophet of empty liberty and abstract individualism” – Earnest Barker “Defence of individual freedom and individuality” Mill on Liberty
According to Mill...
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