Posts Tagged ‘john stuart mill’


Friday, February 27th, 2015 | Books

Utilitarianism is a book by John Stuart Mill defending the topic. I found it rather wandering with little structure. This made it somewhat difficult to follow. Indeed, I am not sure I came away from the book with any deeper understanding than I went in with.

I did not help that I had the audiobook which is narrated by Fleet Cooper. He speaks with an American accent and calls the author “John Stuart Mills”, which made it hard to imagine it being the impassioned arguments of Mill himself.


Auguste Comte and Positivism

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015 | Books

Auguste Comte and Positivism is a book by John Stuart Mill and best of all, was available free from the Kindle store. You can also get it from Project Gutenburg. The Kindle edition was not great because I suspect it was in an odd format – I could not select and lookup words for example.

The book itself is a sort of review of Comte’s work. I am sure there is a scholarly term for it.

I found it hard going. Mill writes without breaks for sub-headings. The book is divided into two parts and those are the only distractions from a constant stream of text. The first part looks at Positivism and the second part looks at Comte’s Religion of Humanity.

I found the second part easier to follow, perhaps because I had no background in what positivism was, or that I was just more interested in this part and so found it easier to concentrate.

Comte clearly has some views that are very silly today. Suppression of science and women for example are pretty much the worst things you can belief in. Underlying that seems to be Comte’s severe OCD. He needs to category and systematise everything. I am looking forward to reading more about his work though.

On Liberty

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 | Books

The 1859 essay (very long essay) by John Stuart Mill sets forth his views on liberty. It contains a lot of things we take for granted in discourse today, but back then was probably original and challenging thought.

Below, I have picked out some of the thoughts I found most interesting.

On the persecution of truth. Mill suggests that maybe we should persecute it, because it cannot do truth any harm, but will weed out nonsense. However, he then counters by pointing out that there are lots of historical example of when truth was successfully dismissed. “Men are not more zealous for truth, than they are for error”. However, like a good trick in evolution (as Daniel Dennett would say), a correct idea will eventually be discovered time and time again.

On the origin of morals in Christianity, Mill points out that Christians have both Christian morals and societal morals, and only follow the Christian morals that match those of society. They don’t for example avoid shellfish or sell all their possessions to give the money to the poor.

He also argues Christianity is also inherently negative. Thou shall not, rather than thou shall. Then backing it up with the Heaven-Hell carrot-stick.

How do we balance individual liberty with the interests of society? Mill argues that we should basically be allowed to do whatever we want as long as it does not harm others. The “harm others” could be a broad church though. If the actions of a man harm his duty to his family for example, we could arguably interfere.

He also notes that you do not need to enforce everything through law. Social rules and conventions can also be used to police behaviour.

Mill argues for universal education, but only that the state should require parents to provide education for their child. He is against the state providing such an education because the state could use it to educate everyone to their own will.