John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was an English philosopher who is probably best known as a liberal. His classic “philosophic textbook of a single truth” (as he called it), On Liberty, was published in 1859 and is, by general agreement, the best clear, short statement of the key idea of liberalism: that individuals should have extensive freedom up to the point where they risk harming others.
Mill is also famous for developing his mentor Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarianism and taking it off on a slightly different track. Whereas for Bentham every kind of pleasure was treated equally in what he called the ‘philosophic calculus,’ Mill introduced the notion that when you’re maximizing happiness for the greatest number of people, it’s possible to distinguish between higher and lower pleasures.
He was a polymath. As described in Mill’s autobiography, he had a hothouse education, learning Latin and Greek from a very early age, reading widely in a huge range of subjects, and disputing with his father on long walks. The best biography of Mill is probably John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeves. It’s a well-written, fascinating account of Mill’s very varied life and thought.
Books by John Stuart Mill
Interviews where books by John Stuart Mill were recommended
Over the past decade our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, has been interviewing philosophers asking them to recommend the best philosophy books. After hundreds of interviews, this is our list of the books that have come up again and again. It reveals if not the best philosophy books ever written, at least a collection of very important and influential books.
Even if you’ve never studied philosophy, it’s nice to be able to read a few books and get a sense of what it’s all about. Here, we asked our philosophy editor, Nigel Warburton, to talk us through five key works of Western philosophy—many of them in the public domain and available for free as ebooks—and explain why, despite one or two odd conclusions or quirky writing styles, they’ve played such an important role in expanding our understanding of the world.
What is the relationship between law and human society? Does the rule of law entail certain rights? What are the justifications for legal constraints on human conduct? Jonathan Sumption, a former Justice of the UK’s Supreme Court, discusses these and other issues related to the rule of law.
The nineteenth century saw not only a widespread interest in philosophical ideas but also philosophy’s development as a more rigorous discipline. Australian philosopher Peter Singer introduces us to the highlights of a century of philosophy books.
Free speech is the bedrock of a healthy society, but how do we deal with the torrents of horrible comments—and worse—we see on the internet every day? Timothy Garton Ash, author of Free Speech: Ten Principles for A Connected World, outlines a plan for navigating the complexities and recommends the best books to help us think about free speech.
Much as some Brexiteers like to pretend it isn’t, England is not only in Europe, but has been, in various centuries and in various ways, at the very heart of it. The former Deputy Prime Minister of the UK, Nick Clegg, discusses his favourite European novels and the founding text of his own political ideology, liberalism.
The philosopher argues that a culture of debate, in which people of all backgrounds can openly discuss the truth, is philosophy’s real answer to conflict.
Modern society has interpreted John Stuart Mill’s concept of tolerance to mean that we should avoid giving offence. The director of the Institute of Ideas tells us about books that show how far we’ve departed from what was meant
Modern conservatism is being driven by an historically unlikely coalition of libertarians and traditionalists, says the vice-president for research at the Cato Institute.