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The New International Encyclopædia/Mill, John Stuart

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Edition of 1905.  See also John Stuart Mill on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

MILL, John Stuart (1806-73). An English philosopher, the son of James Mill. He was born in London, May 20, 1806, and was educated at home by his father, who, however, unwisely forced the child beyond his years. He is said to have begun Greek at three. He was never allowed to indulge in the plays of childhood. In 1820 he went to France, where he lived for upward of a year, making himself master of the French language, and occasionally attending public lectures on science, but also, now that he was away from his father, getting some physical exercise in fencing and like sports. This stay in France gave him an intense appreciation for the pleasures of travel, and to the end of his days he was an ardent lover of mountain scenery. But the world of men had also its interest for him while he was abroad, for then he laid the foundation of his great familiarity with and interest in the politics as well as the literature of the French nation. On his return he read law, history, and philosophy, and in 1823 entered the India House as a clerk in the examiner's office, where his father was assistant examiner. For thirty-three years he was in the service of this company, gradually rising till at last he was head of his department, as his father had been before him. When the government of India was transferred to the Crown in 1858, he declined a seat at the New Indian Council, and retired from office in October of the same year, on a compensating allowance. At the general election of 1865 Mill was returned to Parliament for Westminster, and till he lost his seat at the election of 1868 he acted with the advanced Radicals, and urged the extension of suffrage to women. In 1851 he married Mrs. John Taylor, with whom he had maintained quite unconventional relations before her first husband's death. She died in 1859, but Mill's devotion to her memory was his religion till his death, which took place May 8, 1873, at Avignon, where he had spent the greater part of the last years of his life.

Mill became an author at a very early age, and may be looked upon as one of the foremost thinkers of his time. His first publications consisted of articles in the Westminster Review. He took an active part in the political discussions that followed the revolution of 1830 in France and the reform-bill movement in England; and from 1835 to 1840 was editor and, along with Sir W. Molesworth, proprietor, of the London and Westminster Review where many articles of his own appeared. His chief works are: A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive (1843); Principles of Political Economy (1848); On Liberty (1859); Discussions and Dissertations (4 vols., 1859-74); Utilitarianism (1863); Comte and Positivism and the Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy (1865); Inaugural Address at the University of Saint Andrews (1867); England and Ireland (1868); and The Subjection of Women (1869). After his death appeared his Autobiography (1873) and Three Essays on Religion (1874). In philosophy he was an empiricist, sensationalist, and associationalist. In ethics he was a utilitarian, but departed from the utilitarianism of Bentham by recognizing differences in quality as well as in quantity of pleasures. “It is quite compatible,” he says, “with the principle of utility to recognize the fact that some kinds of pleasure are more desirable and more valuable than others. It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.” In political theory Mill was a modified individualist, believing that every man should be allowed all liberty compatible with the liberty of his fellows. The tendency of modern thought has been so far away from individualistic standards that Mill's renown has been somewhat obscured; but his influence on his own generation would be difficult to overestimate. His greatest work, however, was in logic, to which he added a fruitful treatment of the subject of induction (q.v.). His work in this science was considerably impaired by his sensationalistic empiricism, but when everything is taken into account, it must stand alongside that of Aristotle and of Hegel. His book was for many years the standard authority among those who shared his general standpoint in questions of philosophy, though it was keenly criticised from the opposite camp by Whewell and W. G. Ward.

Consult: Bourne, Life of J. S. Mill (London, 1873); Cairnes, J. S. Mill (ib., 1873); Courtney, Metaphysics of J. S. Mill (ib., 1879); T. H. Green, The Logic of J. S. Mill, in Green's Works, vol. ii. (ib., 1880); Gomperz, J. S. Mill (Vienna, 1889); Courtney, Life of J. S. Mill (London, 1889); Douglas, John Stuart Mill, a study of His Philosophy (ib., 1895); id., The Ethics of John Stuart Mill (ib., 1897); Watson, An Outline of Philosophy (Glasgow, 1898); Stephen, The English Utilitarians (London, 1900); Albee, History of English Utilitarianism (ib., 1902). Douglas's two works are especially to be commended to the reader who wishes to get in compact form a statement of Mill's doctrines in his own words.