47 lecture 13 february 20 john stuart mill was born

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Lecture 13: February 20. John Stuart Mill was born in London in 1806. He never attended school but was educated by his father James Mill, himself a philosopher and a friend and disciple of Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism : the doctrine according to which the greatest good is the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for all humans (or even all sentient creatures —though here we will limit ourselves to considering humans), and in all circumstances the right course of action is the one that best approximates the greatest good. His education included starting the study of Greek at three and of Latin at eight; at twenty he went to France to learn the language, as well as to study chemistry and mathematics. In 1823 he became a clerk in the East India Company, where he worked until 1858, eventually becoming department chief. In 1831 he was introduced to Harriet Taylor, the wife of a successful merchant and mother of several children. They became close friends and, after Harriet’s husband died in 1849, they got married (in 1851). Harriet died in Avignon, France, during a trip, and Mill bought a house nearby so he could be close to her grave. In 1865 he was invited to stand for election to Parliament as an independent member for Westminster. He accepted and, although he refused to campaign, contribute to expenses, or defend his views, he won, and served until the next election in 1868, when he was defeated. As a member of Parliament, he vigorously advocated women’s suffrage, though without success: women were not to be granted full voting rights in England until 1928. Though Mill never attended a university, let alone teach in one, some of his books ( System of Logic , 1843, and Political Economy , 1848) were often used as university textbooks. His other major works were On Liberty (1860), Utilitarianism 48
(1861), and The Subjection of Women (1869). He was also the author of an Autobiography (1867) which has (as indeed his other texts) considerable literary value. On Liberty is dedicated to Harriet Taylor. It is an essay on “civil, or social liberty: [on] the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual” (L1). In ancient times liberty “meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers” (L1), since the latter “were conceived … as in a necessarily antagonistic position to the people whom they ruled” (L1). More recently, “men ceased to think … that their governors should be an independent power opposed in interest to themselves” (L2) and conceived of them instead as “their tenants or delegates, revocable at their pleasure” (L2); consequently, “some persons began to think that too much importance had been attached to the limitation of the power itself” (L3). After all, they reasoned, “[t]he nation did not need to be protected against its own will” (L3). But this created a new problem, as “[t]he will of the people … practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people” (L4); and hence, if no limits are

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