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Happy Belated Birthday to John Stuart Mill!

Over two centuries have passed since the birth of one of the most influential contributors to the world of politics and philosophy. On May 20, 1806, John Stuart Mill was born, and so Philosophical Library would like to invite you to take a look back on the life of this English philosopher in honor of what would be his 210th birthday. Born in London, John was educated at home by his father, James Mill, who was an economist, historian and philosopher. James Mill’s goal was to raise his son to have an exceptional intellect, so the standards of his upbringing were quite high to the effect of learning Greek at age three and having read Aesop’s Fables by age eight. John was exposed to algebra as well as the works of Plato and could comprehend the dialogue at merely eight years old. He had been taught physics, history, astronomy, mathematics, Latin and poetry writing as well, having wrote his own continuation of Homer’s Iliad as one of his first pieces. John was intentionally kept from associating with children his own age, with the exception of his siblings. His father intended for John to carry on his views of utilitarianism and its execution after his passing.

“One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.” – John Stuart Mill

John’s education continued as his adolescence wore on, having studied works of Aristotle, political economy, chemistry, and even zoology. By the age of twenty, John experienced a period of depression and wondered if what he had been striving for his whole life would play an actual part in making him happy. Upon reading the poetry of William Wordsworth, he gained a newfound sense of joy and once again set forth on the journey of creating of a just society. In his late adolescence, John Stuart Mill began work at the British East India Company and worked his way up the ladder.

“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” – John Stuart Mill

From 1865 to 1868, John held the position of Lord Rector at the University of St. Andrews while simultaneously sitting for the Liberal Party as a Member of Parliament. In fact, he was the first person in the history of Parliament to advocate for women having the right to vote and other social reforms. He remained dedicated to supporting individual freedom.

“A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury.” – John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill produced many works that tackled the subjects of politics, religion, science, and economics. One of his noted works includes his book On Liberty, where John explores the relationship between freedom and authority and between citizens and the state. Keeping a foot in his upbringing, he applies the concept of utilitarianism to the philosophy of governance. Maintaining his belief in individual freedoms, John suggests that the liberties of individuals are becoming endangered by democracy, a concept that leans dangerously over the edge toward tyranny. The author suggests that our basic freedoms are negatively impacted by governmental intervention. Even though over a century has passed since its publication date, this title from John Stuart Mill is considered to have held its pertinence. A read set on the foundation of liberalism and maintaining its relevance, On Liberty can be read by anyone wishing to explore the views of noted philosopher John Stuart Mill. To read more about or purchase this title, please click here.

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