Mill, James

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Mill, James,

1773–1836, British philosopher, economist, and historian, b. Scotland; father of John Stuart MillMill, 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
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. Educated as a clergyman at Edinburgh through the patronage of Sir John Stuart, Mill gave up the ministry and went to London in 1802 to pursue a career writing for and editing periodicals. He met Jeremy BenthamBentham, Jeremy,
1748–1832, English philosopher, jurist, political theorist, and founder of utilitarianism. Educated at Oxford, he was trained as a lawyer and was admitted to the bar, but he never practiced; he devoted himself to the scientific analysis of morals and
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 c.1808 and became an ardent advocate of utilitarianismutilitarianism
, in ethics, the theory that the rightness or wrongness of an action is determined by its usefulness in bringing about the most happiness of all those affected by it.
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. On the strength of his History of British India (3 vol., 1817), on which he had worked for over 10 years, Mill secured a permanent position with the British East India CompanyEast India Company, British,
1600–1874, company chartered by Queen Elizabeth I for trade with Asia. The original object of the group of merchants involved was to break the Dutch monopoly of the spice trade with the East Indies.
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. His other works include Elements of Political Economy (1821), Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (2 vol., 1829), and A Fragment on Mackintosh (1835), which contains the best exposition of his psychological and ethical theories. Mill furnished a psychological basis for utilitarian ethics by expanding the associationismassociationism,
theory that all consciousness is the result of the combination, in accordance with the law of association, of certain simple and ultimate elements derived from sense experiences. It was developed by David Hartley and advanced by James Mill.
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 of David HumeHume, David
, 1711–76, Scottish philosopher and historian. Educated at Edinburgh, he lived (1734–37) in France, where he finished his first philosophical work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40).
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. According to Mill, association by contiguity, where ideas that occur frequently together form combinations, may be such a subtle process that the merging of ideas may occur without leaving any trace of the elements that went into their formulation. Derived conceptions may thus achieve autonomy of value quite apart from their obvious egoistic advantage. This is seen as the origin of altruistic motives, which are otherwise difficult to explain on utilitarian grounds, and also as the origin of conscience.


See W. H. Burston, James Mill on Philosophy and Education (1973); B. Mazlish, James and John Stuart Mill (1975, repr. 1988).

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

Mill, James


Born Apr. 6, 1773, in Northwater Bridge, Scotland; died June 23, 1836, in Kensington. British philosopher, historian, and economist. Father of John Stuart Mill.

James Mill graduated from the faculty of theology of Edinburgh University in 1798. He became a journalist. After the publication of the History of India (vols. 1–3, 1817–18), he obtained a position in the East India Company in London, where he worked for the rest of his life. He was greatly influenced by the utilitarianism of J. Bentham. In his main philosophical work, An Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1829), Mill followed the doctrine of D. Hume, striving to reduce all meaning to feelings or experiences, among which he included sensations and “ideas.” He made extensive use of the principle of the association of ideas proposed by Hume and D. Hartley, considering association the basic operation of consciousness. In ethics he was a utilitarian, regarding the public good as the highest principle and the criterion of morality but as a good that could not be completely realized by human beings. He saw the source of personal happiness in devotion to the common good. Characteristic of his sociological views was his denial of the concept of natural law and his effort to explain the content and structure of all social institutions in terms of the principle of utility. An adherent of liberal bourgeois political views, Mill proposed partial improvements in the British constitutional system. He considered the “middle class”—that is, the industrial and commercial bourgeoisie—the true master of the state.


In the book Elements of Political Economy (1821), Mill emerges as a disciple of and a commentator on D. Ricardo’s teachings, which he considered a theoretical weapon in the struggle against the vestiges of feudalism in the economy. At the same time, he distorted and oversimplified Ricardo’s theory, ignoring its essence—the labor theory of value. Thus, he laid the foundation for the disintegration of the Ricardian school. Mill is famous as one of the authors of the apologistic wages-fund theory, according to which the total share of wages in the national income is determined by natural factors and does not depend on the results of the class struggle.


The Principles of Toleration. London, 1837.
A Fragment on Mackintosh, new ed. London, 1870.


Marx, K. “K kritike politicheskoi ekonomii.” In K. Marx and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 13.
Marx, K. “Teorii pribavochnoi stoimosti” (Das Kapital, vol. 4). Ibid., vol. 26.
Rozenberg, D. I. Istoriia politicheskoi ekonomii, part 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935. Pages 304–13.
Istoriia filosofii, vol. 3. [Moscow] 1943. Pages 456–59.
Bain, A. J. Mill. London, 1882.
Stephen, L. The English Utilitarians, vol. 2. New York, 1950.
Mill, John S. Autobiography. New York [1957].
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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