John Stuart Mill

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Mill, John Stuart

Mill, John Stuart, 1806–73, British philosopher and economist. A precocious child, he was educated privately by his father, James Mill. In 1823, abandoning the study of law, he became a clerk in the British East India Company, where he rose to become head of the examiner's office by the time of the company's dissolution (1858). During this period he contributed to various periodicals, becoming a popular journalist, and met with discussion groups, one of which included Thomas Macaulay, to explore the problems of political theory. His A System of Logic (1843) was followed in 1848 by the Principles of Political Economy, which influenced English radical thought. In 1851, two years after the death of her husband, he married Harriet Taylor, whom he had loved for 20 years. She died in 1858, and Mill, profoundly affected, dedicated to her the famous On Liberty (1859), on which they had worked together. His Utilitarianism was published in 1863, and Auguste Comte and Positivism appeared in 1865. From 1865 to 1868 Mill served as a member of Parliament, after which he retired, spending much of his time at Avignon, France, where his wife was buried and where he died. His celebrated Autobiography appeared during the year of his death.

John Stuart Mill's philosophy followed the doctrines of his father and his father's mentor, Jeremy Bentham, but he sought to temper them with humanitarianism. At times Mill came close to socialism, a theory repugnant to his predecessors. In logic, he formulated rules for the inductive process, and he stressed the method of empiricism as the source of all knowledge. In his ethics, he pointed out the possibility of a sentiment of unity and solidarity that may even develop a religious character, as in Comte's religion of humanity. In addition he introduced into the utilitarian calculus of pleasure a qualitative principle that goes far beyond the simpler conception of quantity (see utilitarianism). He constantly advocated political and social reforms, such as proportional representation, emancipation of women (he believed in total equality between the sexes), an end to slavery, and the development of labor organizations and farm cooperatives. He also strongly supported the Union cause in the American Civil War. Mill's influence has been strong in economics, politics, and philosophy.


See biography by R. Reeves (2008); B. Mazlish, James and John Stuart Mill (1975, repr. 1988); M. Cowling, Mill and Liberalism (1963); J. M. Robson, The Improvement of Mankind: The Social and Political Thought of John Stuart Mill (1968); H. J. McCloskey, John Stuart Mill: A Critical Study (1971); F. H. von Hayek, John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor: Their Correspondence and Subsequent Marriage (1951, repr. 1979); J. Riley, Liberal Utilitarianism: Social Choice Theory and J. S. Mill's Philosophy (1988).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Mill, John Stuart


Born May 20, 1806, in London; died May 8, 1873, in Avignon. English positivist philosopher. Economist. Public figure.

John Stuart Mill was the son of James Mill, under whose guidance he received a comprehensive education. From 1823 to 1858 he served in the East India Company. As a member of the House of Commons from 1865 to 1868 he supported liberal and democratic reforms.

Mill’s world view developed under the influence of the political economy of D. Ricardo, the utilitarianism of J. Bentham, the philosophy of G. Berkeley and D. Hume, and the associative psychology of D. Hartley and James Mill. His philosophical views are expressed in An Examination of Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy (1865; Russian translation, 1869), in which he rebutted English apriorism from the standpoint of phenomenological positivism. According to Mill, all knowledge is derived from experience, and the object of knowledge is our sensations. Matter is only the constant possibility of sensations, whereas consciousness is the capacity to experience them. Although he shared a number of the philosophical and logical orientations of A. Comte’s positivism, he rejected Comte’s sociopolitical doctrine, seeing in it a system of spiritual and political despotism that ignored the importance of human freedom and individuality (Auguste Comte and Positivism, 1865; Russian translation, 1867).

Mill’s most important work, A System of Logic (vols. 1–2, 1843; most recent Russian translation, 1914), contains an inductionist treatment of logic as the general methodology of the sciences. Mill expounds the doctrines of names and propositions, of deductive (syllogistic) conclusions, of induction and the methods of inductive analysis of causal dependence, of the methods of cognition that are subsidiary to induction, of fallacies, and of the logic of the moral sciences.

In ethics (Utilitarianism, 1863; most recent Russian translation, 1900), Mill also proceeded from the conception of the experiential origin of moral feelings and principles. Developing the utilitarian ethics of Bentham, according to which the value of behavior is determined by the pleasure it brings, Mill recognized not only egocentric aspirations but also disinterested ones. In public life people’s egoism is disciplined because they must take mutual interests into account. Thus, developed moral feeling is revealed in the aspiration to achieve not a maximum of personal happiness but the “greatest common good.”


Condemning the vices of the capitalist system (the worship of money, inequality in property, and the low standard of living of the working people), Mill was an adherent of bourgeois reformism. In Principles of Political Economy and Certain of Their Additions to Social Philosophy (1848; Russian translation, vols. 1–2, 1865), he endeavored to give a systematic account of the ideas of contemporary bourgeois political economy. Seeking to avoid the contradictions characteristic of classical political economy, Mill eclectically merged the views of classical political economy with the distorted, oversimplified views of J. B. Say, N. Senior, and T. Malthus. For this he was criticized by Marx (K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 23, pp. 17, 624–25, and notes).



Letters, vols. 1–2. London, 1910.
In Russian translation:
O svobode, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Rassuzhdeniia i issledovaniia politicheskie, filosofskie i istoricheskie, parts 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1864–65.
Razmyshleniia o predstavitel’nom pravlenii, fascs. 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1863–64.
Angliia i Irlandiia. Kharkov, 1873.
Podchinennost’ zhenshchiny. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Avtobiografiia. Moscow, 1896.


Rossel’, lu. “D. S. Mill’ i ego shkola.” Vestnik Evropy, 1874, nos. 5, 6, 7, 10, 12.
Tugan-Baranovskii, M. D. S. Mill’: Ego zhizn’ i ucheno-literaturnaia deiatel’nost’ St. Petersburg, 1892.
Saenger, S. D. St. Mill’ ego zhizn’ i proizvedeniia. St. Petersburg, 1903. (Translated from German.)
Chernyshevskii, N. G. “Ocherki iz politicheskoi ekonomii (po Milliu).” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 9. Moscow, 1949.
Trakhtenberg, O. V. Ocherki po istorii filosofii i sotsiologii Anglii XIX v. Moscow, 1959.
Anschutz, R. P. The Philosophy of J. S. Mill. Oxford, 1953.
Britton, K. J. S. Mill. London, 1953.
Packe, M. S. The Life of J. S. Mill. New York, 1954.
Ryan, A. The Philosophy of J. S. Mill. London, 1970.
McCloskey, H. J. J. S. Mill. New York, 1971.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
'J.S. Mill and the Secret Ballot', Historical Reflections, 5, pp.
Without question, the liberalism of J.S. Mill and his modern heirs is antithetical to the idea of religion as an organising principle in society.
Mehta recommends an epistemological method modeled on conversation out of Richard Rorty, as if this were a corrective to liberal close-mindedness, without a nod to J.S. Mill's own famous advocacy of free debate foregoing claims to infallibility on any side in "On Liberty."
The upshot is that the original and most powerful organising `idea' about English intellectual history -- of England as a Philistine nation, a land where, in the words of J.S. Mill, there was `neither knowledge nor thought' -- has remained undisturbed, even by the invocation of Mill himself and the `liberalism' he is held to stand for.
Samuelson and other developers of H-O are viewed much as J.S. Mill viewed himself, that is, as cleaning up the loose ends left by the master.
J.S. Mill's Philosophy: Being a Defense of Fundamental Truth (1866), The Laws of Discursive Thought (1870), Christianity and Positivism (1871), The Scottish Philosophy (1875), and Realistic Philosophy Defended in a Philosophical Series (2 v.
Its reading list includes Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Adam Smith, J.S. Mill, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud, among others.
Described by his friend J.S. Mill as `one of the organising and contriving minds of the age', he had a hand in many of the major Victorian social and administrative reforms.
Rawls identified utilitarianism as the main philosophical threat to liberalism in our democratic culture due to its apparent inability to take seriously the separateness of persons, and scholars of the main figures of classical utilitarianism, such as Jeremy Bentham and J.S. Mill, have tried to defend these liberal thinkers and show that, essentially, utilitarianism remains a liberal doctrine because it can accommodate person-respecting constraints on direct utility maximization.
J.S. Mill's work is not surprisingly of great importance in Marshall's apprenticeship, but the works of Smith, Cournot, von Thunen, and other German economists were also important.
Among the eminent Victorians, J.S. Mill is at the same time one of the most and one of the least studied.