John Stuart Mill was a famous English philosopher. Mill contributed a lot to political economy, political theory, and social theory. Most of Mill’s ideas have reshaped people’s ideas regarding politics, justice, economics, and happiness.
Capaldi (21) writes that his influence came from his father and Jeremy Bentham. As a child, his father encouraged him to study various works by great philosophers and thinkers such as Plato.
Mill eventually became one of the greatest philosophers of the 19th century. This paper presents a short biography of the philosopher and goes further to discuss some of his outstanding ideas and philosophical views.
Mill’s Short Biography
John Stuart Mill is definitely one of the famous philosophers of the modern era. Mill was born on 20 May 1806 in Britain. He was born to James Mill, a great historian, philosopher, and economist. By the age of 12, Mill had studied works of great philosophers such as Plato. He had also familiarized himself with subjects such as algebra. Mill’s father shielded him from children of his age (Capaldi 16).
As a scholar, Stuart Mill wrote extensively on various subjects including morality and politics. He also served as a Member of Parliament (MP) for Westminster. He was the first person to call for equality by giving women rights to vote.
During his life, “Mill wrote many works in support of utilitarianism, women rights, and liberty” (Capaldi 86). He also contributed widely to political and social theories. Mill was an atheist. He taught different scholars such as Bertrand Russell. The philosopher died in Avignon, France, on 8 May 1873. Today he remains a great figure in modern philosophy.
John Stuart Mill’s Philosophical Ideas
Stuart Mill was definitely an influential philosopher of the 19th century. Some of the outstanding ideas by Stuart Mill appear in his masterpiece “On Liberty”. In the work, Mill examines the question of liberty and the power of the society. According to Mill, “individuals in the society are permitted to harm themselves” (Capaldi 72). This is acceptable only if the individuals do not harm other people.
However, there is need to prevent individuals from damaging property or themselves. This is necessary because such individuals do not live in “isolation”. This establishes what Mill calls the “harm principle”. According to the principle, any kind of harm to property and individuals might eventually affect the welfare of the society.
Mill goes further to say that “individuals should be free and do whatever they want unless they potentially harm other people in the society” (Mill 37).
This means that individuals have the right to make decisions that will affect their wellbeing. Governments should intervene in order to protect the wider society from harmful persons. Such philosophical ideas have played a significant role towards the formation of many societies today.
The other philosophical idea by the philosopher occurs in his essay “Utilitarianism”. In the essay, Stuart Mill supports utilitarianism as an important moral theory. He also responds to most of the misinterpretations associated with utilitarianism.
According to Mill, “utility theory is based on the rule that actions should be accepted if they promote happiness” (Mill 43). He also suggests that actions are wrong if they result in unhappiness or pain. To support the theory, Mill states that people’s expectations in life are essential aspects of happiness.
Mill believes the society should embrace the theory of utilitarianism because it governs the ethical aspects of its people. With the theory, people will embrace the best actions because they result in happiness and not sorrow. It becomes evident from these ideas that happiness should be the basis of human ethics and morality.
Mill believes every person in the universe “desires happiness than anything else” (Capaldi 98). It is agreeable that different sentiments such as that of Justice are founded on the utility theory. Mill encourages people to support human rights because they provide the necessary framework towards greater happiness.
The utilitarian theory has encountered criticism from great thinkers and scholars. For instance, critics suggest that the theory fails to provide the necessary ideas and frameworks to protect human liberties and rights. As well, some critics argue that the theory cannot be a standard measure for all things.
Faced with such criticism, Mill’s essay presents new answers thus making it easier for people to understand the foundations of utilitarianism (Honer et al. 65). Stuart Mill offers a classical connection between human utility and the concept of justice. This makes it easier for the reader to understand that human justice is developed from happiness.
John Stuart Mill also presents his views on economic philosophy. Although he embraces the idea of “free markets”, Mill accepts the presence of economic interventions (Mill 83). However, Mill believes there should be significant utilitarianism ideas for free markets to exist.
As well, Mill addresses the issue of slavery and human liberty. Mill is against slavery because it does not promote equality or happiness. Mill also supports women rights and happiness. This explains why many people consider Mill a feminist (Capaldi 103).
In most of his works and ideas, Stuart Mill criticizes women subjugation and oppression. According to the philosopher, oppression of females is a major obstacle affecting the modern society.
John Mill also presents essential ideas regarding the issue of politics and democracy. In his work “Considerations on Representative Government”, Mill believes that leaders should be competent in order to guide their citizens.
As well, citizens should be equally involved in government matters (Capaldi 65). This explains why he supports “plural voting” because it can be one of the best steps to democracy. John Mill was also a strong supporter of “freedom of speech” (Mill 64). By so doing, Mill believes people should be free to communicate in order to discover the truth.
This is the best way to increase human knowledge. The other important thing to understand is that Mill was once an elected government official, something that made it easier for him to exercise his political theories and philosophies.
From the above discussion, it is agreeable that John Mill Stuart is an important philosopher in the modern world. Mill presents useful philosophical ideas that have helped transform the universe. For instance, Mill examines the question of liberty and power in the society. According to the philosopher, individuals in the society are permitted to harm themselves.
However, this is only acceptable if the individuals do not harm others. As well, Mill’s utilitarian theory supports actions that result in happiness. He also supports equality, freedom of speech, and rights of women. These philosophical ideas have played a significant role towards the establishment of societies and governments today.
Capaldi, Nicholas. John Stuart Mill: A Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
Honer, Stanley, et al. Invitation to Philosophy: Issues and Options. Cengage: Cengage Learning, 2005. Print.
Mill, John Stuart. Remarks on Bentham’s Philosophy. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 2001. Print.