the philosophies and life of john stuart mill 1806 1873 n.
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The philosophies and life of John Stuart Mill (1806-1873). By Lena Reisterer. Naturalism. Mill refutes German, priori view of human knowledge (Intuitionism)

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  • Mill refutes German, priori view of human knowledge (Intuitionism)
  • “The constitution of the mind is the key to the constitution of external nature—that the laws of the human intellect have a necessary correspondence with the objective laws of the universe, such that these may be inferred from those.” (CW, XI.343). (nature is constituted by the mind rather than imperfectly observed by it)
  • Mill found this freedom from appeal to nature disturbing, and believes that our best methods of explaining the world are those employed by the natural sciences
  • Mill believes that intuitionism frees one from the obligation of justifying one’s beliefs
  • Mill viewed his own commitment to the naturalism and empiricism of the “a posteriori school” of thought as part of a broader social and political agenda that advocated for reform and undercut traditional foundations of conservatism
  • Utilitarianism: Actions are right if they promote happiness
  • Utilitarians looked to Christian God to address the issue of how to harmonize the interests of individuals with the interests of the society as a whole.
  • By understanding that what you must do is what God wills, and since God wills happiness on his creatures, morality and self-interest begin to overlap
  • God guarantees that an individual’s self interest lies in furthering the happiness of others
mill s personal defense of utilitarianism
Mill’s Personal Defense of Utilitarianism
  • The things that we think we value separately, such as virtue and freedom, are merely intrinsic parts of valuing happiness
  • Higher pleasures vs. lower-
    • Higher are mental, aesthetic, and moral pleasures
    • When evaluating the happiness produced by a decision, higher pleasures should be taken into account
  • We don’t need to constantly be concerned about the happiness of others, just merely make sure we aren’t violating the rights of others
  • Our obligation to the general happiness of others results from the natural desire to want to be in unity with our fellow creatures
  • Justice is not only right to do, but which an individual can claim from us as his moral right
mill on liberty
Mill on Liberty
  • The only reason that power should be exercised over an individual is to prevent harm to others
  • Allowing the freedom of the individual promotes utility in the largest sense, because utility is grounded on a man’s personal interests as a progressive being
  • Humans and the world are thus always capable of improvement
mill on the subjection of women political and social issues
Mill on the Subjection of Women(Political and Social Issues)
  • The subordination of one sex to the other is a hindrance on human improvement, and must be replaced by equality
  • Effect of subordination on women-
    • stunts the moral and intellectual development of women by restricting their field of activities, pushing them either into self-sacrifice or into selfishness and pettiness.
  • Effect of subordination on men-
    • Men either become brutal through their relationships with women or turn away from projects of self-improvement to pursue the social “consideration” that women desire.
  • Societal conditions at the time:
    • (1) British women had fewer grounds for divorce than men until 1923
    • (2) Husbands controlled their wives personal property (with the occasional exception of land) until the Married Women’s Property Acts of 1870 and 1882; (3) Children were the husband’s
    • (4) Rape was impossible within a marriage; and (5) Wives lacked crucial features of legal personhood, since the husband was taken as the representative of the family
mill on political economy
Mill on Political Economy
  • Moral impact of industrialization
  • Mill worried that the division of labor, including the increasing simplicity and repetitiveness of the work, and the growing size of factories and businesses led to a spiritual and moral deadening
  • Out of a desire to transform temporal work into something that would make workers fell like a part of something greater than themselves, Mill came up with “co-operatives”- a profit-sharing system in which worker pay is tied to the success of the business, or a worker co-operative in which workers share ownership of capital
mill on religion
Mill on Religion
  • Mill believed that Christianity at the time fostered indifference and hostility to human happiness
  • Believed that religion in general religion could serve ethical needs by supplying people with “ideal conceptions grander and more beautiful than we see realized in the prose of human life.” (CW, X.419). In this way, religion elevates feelings, cultivates sympathy towards others, and imbues even small activities with a sense of purpose.
  • Mill created “Religion of Humanity”
    • -where idealized humanity becomes an object of reverence and the morally useful features of traditional religion are supposedly purified and accentuated. The human existence is one long drama, a battle of good over evil. Thus this religion is an instrument of human cultivation.
how do mill s beliefs apply today
How do Mill’s beliefs apply today?
  • Capital Punishment
    • Mill would most likely argue against the death penalty, because it does not impact the quality of life of others, and completely strips the felon of their ability to progress as a human
  • Same Sex Marriage
    • Mill would most likely be a proponent, because with the pursuit of individual happiness, (without direct harm to others) comes the happiness of the general population
how do mill s beliefs apply today1
How do Mill’s beliefs apply today?
  • Embryonic Stem Cell Research
    • Mill would raise the question, is the embryo a human with individual rights that should be protected, or does the happiness of the general population outweigh the harm to the embryo?
  • Gun Control
    • An individual’s happiness is affected by their feeling of safety. Does the possession of guns increase this? If yes, freedom to own guns must aid in the progression of human happiness. Or does ease of gun possession increase crime?
  • "John Stuart Mill (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. <>.
  • "Mill, John Stuart [Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]." Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Web. 07 Mar. 2011. <>.