John Stuart Mill is one of the most influential moral and social philosophers who ever lived. A towering intellect, his treatises include On Liberty, which dealt with the proper power and limit of the state over the individual, and The Subjugation of Women, which defended equality long before it was fashionable. Mill’s was a liberal, in the old-fashioned sense of a philosopher defending individual liberty and autonomy against the paternalistic, overweening state that had been the norm up to that point.
Bruce is familiar with Mill’s work (although not with his complicated writings on logic and epistemology, he tells me). So, Bruce will lead us Monday. He has been rereading On Liberty and will take us through Mill’s method and conclusions.
Today’s conservatives (at least the well-read ones) frequently cite Mill’s philosophy as one of the founding fathers of their belief system, along with Hayek, Von Mises, et. al. So, I think we need to understand Mill and even – gasp! – appreciate him, as well as just be able to rebut any of his thoughts that we feel are no longer relevant.
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS –
- Who was John Stuart Mill? In what social and political contexts did he live and work? How do they matter for our interpretation of him today?
- What did Mill have to say in On Liberty? How relevant is it today?
- What do we think of Mill’s most famous principles: The “harm principle?” and his version of utilitarianism? How should they be interpreted for the modern world?
- Wiki entry on JSM’s On Liberty.
- JSM: Dead Thinker of the Year?
- Two lengthy and detailed explanations of JSM and his philosophy:
Philosophy rules, if you can understand a word they are saying.