Mill JohnStuart(1806-73) English philosopher and leading 19th-century exponent of liberalism, who also took a keen interest in developments in social science and sociology, e.g. he sponsored COMTE's work. Apart from his own wide-ranging philosophical and more general work (including Utilitarianism, 1861a, Representative Government, 1861b, and Principles of Political Economy, 1848), Mill's own contribution to social science was made especially in his A System of Logic (1843). In this he provided a formal analysis of the main methods of INDUCTION AND INDUCTIVE LOGIC, which he advanced as the basis of empirical research and the scientific method in social science as well as natural science (see COMPARATIVE METHOD). Making the assumption of a ‘uniformity of nature’, Mill sought to combat traditional philosophical scepticism; however, he cannot be seen to have solved this problem (see FALSIFICATION).
Influenced by de TOCQUEVILLE, in On Liberty (1859) Mill argued against all forms of censorship and for a toleration of different viewpoints, one reason for this being that the development of knowledge required such openness – a viewpoint that can be interpreted as an argument against any fixed method (see FEYERABEND, TRUTH). Another reason was the importance of living life as one chooses, of allowing ‘experiments in living’ which do not threaten others. In The Subjection of Women (1869) he made out a case against gender inequality. His contribution to UTILITARIANISM, the extension of the work of his father James Mill (1773-1836) and his godfather Jeremy BENTHAM, is also of sociological interest. Mill followed their views in making judgements of right and wrong a matter of the ‘pleasure principle’, the degree to which particular actions or social arrangements increase. or do not increase, overall ‘happiness’. However, he differed from them in insisting that a distinction should be drawn between higher and lower forms of pleasure.