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This edited collection highlights the inquisitive and synthetic aspects of John Stuart Mill's mode of philosophising while exploring various aspects of Mill's thought, intellectual development and influence. The contributors to this volume discuss a number of Mill's ideas including those on political participation, democracy, liberty and justice.




Born in London, on 20 May 1806, John Stuart Mill was the eldest son of James Mill, the author of The History of British India. 1 Most sketches of John Mill’s life - by himself and by others, then and now - commonly begin with a reference to his father.2 But Mill’s reputation has long surpassed that of his utilitarian predecessors.3 He is today one of the most studied nineteenth-century British thinkers. His eminence is owed primarily to On Liberty (1859), Utilitarianism (1861), and Autobiography (1873), but also to The Subjection of Women (1869), A System of Logic (1843), Principles of Political Economy (1848), Considerations on Representative Government (1861), and Three Essays on Religion (1874). Most of these works underwent several editions during his lifetime, and so did the few selected essays which he republished in Dissertations and Discussions (1859). However, he is no less remembered as an ardent and devoted advocate of the enfranchisement of women and the working classes, a stern supporter of Irish cultivators of land against absentee landowners and a resolute opponent of slavery and a Member of Parliament for Westminster (1865–8) than as the author of those influential works.
Kyriakos N. Demetriou, Antis Loizides

1. The Philosophy of Error and Liberty of Thought: J.S. Mill on Logical Fallacies

Logic lays down the general principles and laws of the search after truth; the conditions which, whether recognised or not, must actually have been observed if the mind has done its work rightly. Logic is the intellectual complement of mathematics and physics. Those sciences give the practice, of which Logic is the theory. It declares the principles, rules, and precepts, of which they exemplify the observance.
Frederick Rosen

2. John Stuart Mill, Romantics’ Socrates, and the Public Role of the Intellectual

John Stuart Mill developed his theory of individuality and the public role of critical knowledge from his lifelong study of the Platonic dialogues and in particular the figure of Socrates, which he elected as both a model for moral life and a precursor of modern moral philosophy. It is no exaggeration to say that Mill contributed to the renaissance of Socratism in the age of Romanticism. Like Georg W.F. Hegel, he interpreted Socratic enquiry as the awakening of individual self-consciousness in history, and like Friedrich D.E. Schleiermacher he situated Socrates’ originality in his use of critical analysis for defining the meaning of “general terms” in morals and politics. Mill’s attitude towards Socrates signalled, on the other hand, his distance from classical utilitarianism. Unlike Jeremy Bentham, who dismissed the Socratic method as an abstract moral disquisition that underrated “every man’s experience,” Mill asserted its concreteness, and unlike his father, who used the Socratic dialogue as merely a negative and polemical tool for winning arguments against the interlocutor, young Mill celebrated it also as a searching method for reaching reasonable convictions through dialogue with others.
Nadia Urbinati

3. The Socratic Origins of John Stuart Mill’s “Art of Life”

John Stuart Mill’s attempt to expand the theory of his utilitarian predecessors has led scholars to brand him as inconsistent, confused, and even illogical. However, in challenging these traditional representations of Mill, revisionist interpretations have made use of Mill’s sketch of an “Art of Life,” which appeared in his A System of Logic (London, 1843), to put forward an “enlarged” theory of utility that was consistent with his theory of liberty. As a result, due to a narrow focus on the connection of Mill’s “Art of Life” to crucial arguments in Utilitarianism (London, 1861–3) and On Liberty (London, 1859), its ancient Greek echoes have been widely ignored - even when Mill’s Greco-philia is duly noted.1 To this effect, first, I briefly examine how the “Art of Life” came to be discussed in the last pages of Mill’s Logic; second, I explore the ancient Greek notion of an “Art of Living” third, I turn to the textual connections between the Platonic “political art” and Mill’s “Art of Life"; and, lastly, I proceed to reconstruct Mill’s “Art of Life” by discussing Alan Ryan’s, Jonathan Riley’s, and Wendy Donner’s influential interpretations.
Antis Loizides

4. Mill’s Greek Ideal of Individuality

In On Liberty, John Stuart Mill defends “a Greek ideal of selfdevelopment,” which apparently involves a mixture of two elements: “ ‘Pagan self-assertion’ is one of the elements of human worth, as well as ‘Christian self-denial’ “ (OL.iii.8).1 This Greek ideal, he says, “blends with [...] the Platonic and Christian ideal of self-government” in so far as both ideals prescribe that individuals should voluntarily sacrifice their selfish concerns when necessary to obey moral rules of justice that distribute equal rights and correlative duties for the common good. Indeed, an individual should be forced, if necessary, to obey such rules of justice: “As much compression as is necessary to prevent the stronger specimens of human nature from encroaching on the rights of others, cannot be dispensed with” (OL.iii.9).2 But the Greek ideal also includes an element of self-assertion and thus does not call for the individual to exhaust her entire life and conduct in obedience to putative moral rules, whether in the form of laws, customs, or dictates of conscience. For Mill, the Greek ideal supersedes the Platonic and Christian ideal, which decries self-assertion and tries to smother it with moral rules. He makes this clear when he holds up Pericles to exemplify the Greek ideal, and claims that Pericles lacks none of the virtues of John Knox, who exemplifies Christian self-sacrifice: “It may be better to be a John Knox than an Alcibiades, but it is better to be a Pericles than either; nor would a Pericles, if we had one in these days, be without anything good which belonged to John Knox” (OL.iii.8).3
Jonathan Riley

5. Uncelebrated Trouble Maker: John Stuart Mill as English Radicalism’s Foreign Politics Gadfly

Mill is not even mentioned (let alone included as a potential “trouble maker”) in A.J.P. Taylor’s classic study of dissenters over Britain’s foreign policy.2 And yet, as I argue in this chapter, Mill was exactly such a dissenter and trouble maker. More specifically, I intend to show that Mill’s was a case of “dissidence of dissent,”3 in the sense that, on a number of issues, he was a trouble maker not just in British public debates in general but within radical and “trouble making” circles in particular as well. Though such a role could be shown to have been adopted by Mill with regard to a broader range of issues,4 I will focus here only on those related to foreign policy and international relations. On a number of debates on national security and defence, military systems, non-intervention, international maritime law, pacifism, calls for international arbitration or international tribunals, the settler colonies, and other related issues, Mill’s positions often surprised and sometimes shocked his radical contemporaries.
Georgios Varouxakis

6. The Philosopher in the Agora

We know little of what the historical Socrates really said and did when performing his “gadfly” role in Athens. Nonetheless, if the Apology is to be accepted as a true account of his views, he gave a clear account of the role of the public intellectual, and on more than one occasion (again if Plato’s rendering of his views is to be credited) he claimed to be the only true statesman in Athens.1 Yet, he famously claimed to know nothing, and thus seemed to undermine the authority he was simultaneously claiming. He is an obvious choice as a “significant other” for any discussion of John Stuart Mill’s role in the public life of Victorian England; of historical figures to whom the label of “public intellectual” might plausibly be applied, Mill was philosophically one of the best equipped. He also translated several Platonic dialogues, never spoke less than admiringly of Plato, and regarded the execution of Socrates as a moral disaster fit only to be compared to the Crucifixion.2 Like Socrates, Mill was emphatic that much that we think we know is either mistaken or not really known, and his standard of justified belief - the ability to defend our beliefs against the best arguments against them - is decidedly Socratic. Unlike Socrates, Mill not only thought he knew much that the public could benefit from sharing, in logic, ethics, and political economy, but also set out to teach it to them.
Alan Ryan

7. The Spirit of Athens: George Grote and John Stuart Mill on Classical Republicanism

In 1821 George Grote wrote a lengthy manuscript essay entitled “On the Athenian Government,” in which he asserted that the short treatise On the Athenian Constitution (which he attributes to Xenophon) “proves incontestably that the Athenian Government was the best at that time existing in Greece.”1 Grote quite ingeniously tried to deduce from a hostile witness evidence in favour of Athenian democracy as compared to the constitution the author of this treatise would have preferred to see operating.2 At that time Grote was 27 years old, that is only two years after he met James Mill who changed his political convictions and his philosophical outlook forever. From that year onwards Grote was devoted to writing a pamphlet on “Parliamentary Reform” (1821), an “Essay on Magick,”3 an essay on “Natural Religion” (1822),4 and an article entitled “Institutions of Ancient Greece” for the Westminster Review (1826) - his formal debut in Greek historiography.5 The elder Mill had a profound influence on Grote, directing the powers of this admirable polymath in the service of the utilitarian cause for political reform and moral enlightenment along with a large group of enthusiasts and activists who addressed an inveterate scepticism towards all the institutions, norms and practices of organized society.
Kyriakos N. Demetriou

8. Three Visions of Liberty: John Stuart Mill, Isaiah Berlin, Quentin Skinner

In this chapter, I wish to examine John Stuart Mill’s concept of liberty as it emerges especially from On Liberty (1859) in the light of Isaiah Berlin’s and Quentin Skinner’s interpretations. Mill’s view of liberty as absence of constraints in self-regarding actions has been hailed by Berlin as the quintessential notion of “negative liberty” (an expression originally coined by Samuel Pufendorf and then used by Jeremy Bentham).1 On the other hand, Skinner has emphasized Mill’s belief that a minimum level of interference from the government, together with a maximum of social tolerance, was needed to promote “individuality” and “eccentricity"; in this respect Mill’s view of liberty cannot be described as merely negative for it has a positive goal. After examining the respective merits of their interpretations, I conclude that both Berlin and Skinner had a political agenda in their interpretation of Mill which was dictated by the practical circumstances as well as by their different interpretative sensibilities. What emerges clearly from this comparison and study in reception is the complexity and comprehensiveness of Mill’s notion of liberty, which cannot be easily pinpointed and hastily attributed to a political or philosophical camp: according to the aspects of his thought emphasized by the authors, Mill’s concept of liberty can be characterized either as “negative” or as “positive.”
Giovanni Giorgini

9. John Stuart Mill through Rawls

John Rawls makes three well-known basic interrelated points about utilitarianism: It undermines the distinctness between persons and reduces the diversity of individual plans into a single scale of value. It superficially accommodates equality within its structure, for equality can never be in genuine conflict with maximization. Rights, rules, claims of desert are but first-order maxims, nothing more than efficient rules of thumb, based on generalized experience. This is what we may call Rawls’ mainstream critique of what he usually calls “classical utilitarianism.” However, Rawls articulates more sophisticated interpretations of utilitarianism, when he introduces, for example, the “practice” view of rules, which places constraints on direct maximization. He further allows for modifications that broaden the concept of utility, provided that the category of the right does not become part of it. Sometimes he even seems to adopt a rather broad understanding of utilitarianism. For example, in “Two Concepts of Rules” he includes among “classical utilitarians” David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, and even Thomas Hobbes,1 and one naturally might wonder in what sense Hobbes’ theory undermines the separateness of persons! Moreover, Rawls insists that Hume adopts a very “loose”2 conception of utility, but he also claims that Hume’s notion of the “judicial spectator” naturally draws him close to the classical utilitarian view.3
Gregory I. Molivas


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