John Stuart Mill

Scottish Philosopher, Historian, and Economist

Brief Biography

  • Born on May 20th 1806 and passed away on May 8th 1873.
  • Born in Pentonville area of London
  • Raised in a strict firm environment due to his vigorous teachings given from his father
  • His father was motivated to raise a genius
  • Influential contributor to social and political theory as well as the political economy
  • Experienced serious nervous breakdown = due to physical and mental difficulty of his studies


Theory of Liberty

  • Addresses the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual.
  • “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians.”
  • Free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress.
  • Attempts to establish standards for the relationship between authority and liberty.
  • Emphasizes the importance of individuality which he conceived as a prerequisite to the higher pleasures
  • Talks about how the tyranny of government needs to be controlled by the liberty of the citizens.

Three Basics Liberties in Order of Importance:

  1. The freedom of thought and emotion. This includes the freedom to act on such thought (Ex. Freedom of speech)
  2. The freedom of pursue tastes (provided they do no harm to others), even if they are deemed “immoral”
  3. The freedom to unite so long as the involved members are of age, the involved members are not forced, and no harm is done to others.

Social Liberty and Tyranny of Majority

  • Social Liberty to Mill is putting limits on the ruler’s power so that he would not be able to use his power on his own wishes and make decisions which could harm society.
  • Social liberty is giving the people a right to have some sort of say in the government’s decisions.

Womens Rights

  • Mill attempts to prove that the legal subjugation of women is wrong and that it should give way to perfect equality.
  • Mill talked about the role of women in marriage and how he felt it needed to be changed.
  • Mill commented on three major sides of women’s lives that he felt are hindering them which were society, gender construction, education, and marriage.


  • Mill’s major contribution to utilitarianism is his argument for the qualitative separation of pleasures.
  • Mill argues that intellectual and moral pleasures (higher pleasures) are superior to more physical forms of pleasure (lower pleasures).
  • Mill’s argument is that the “simple pleasures” tend to be preferred by people who have no experience with high art, and are therefore not in a proper position to judge.
  • Mill also argues that people who, for example, are noble or practice philosophy, benefit society more than those who engage in individualist practices for pleasure, which are lower forms for happiness.

Famous Quotations

  1. “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.”
  2. “ The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental or spiritual. Mankind are great gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.”
  3. “One person with a belief is equal to a force of 99 who have only interests.”
  4. “Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit.”