Friday, November 19, 2010

John Stuart Mill : Life

John Stuart Mill was born on May 20, 1806 in north London, the oldest of nine children. His father, James Mill, was a student of Jeremy Bentham, a radical utilitarian. John himself was accelerated through school and shared the company of many of his father’s intellectual friends throughout his adolescence.
In fact; young John was sent to France to live with Samuel Bentham, the brother of Jeremy. It is often lamented that John lacked a childhood thanks to his father’s intense drive of his son into the academic world. Indeed, soon after his education, John followed his father into a job at the East India Company where he remained in leadership positions until the company’s demise in 1858.

Mill’s early writings and contributions to philosophy were published in two newspapers, The Traveller and The Morning Chronicle, both edited by associates of his friends. The radical philosophical journal Westminster Review served as another pulpit for Mill and a means to further elaborate on his views.
Mill’s Autobiography, completed shortly before his death in 1873, recounted the experiences that he had with the London Debating Society where his view were seen as being the product of an obsessive academic upbringing, with but more plain memorization than true philosophical thought. The experience he gained as a member of the society taught him the value of political philosophy not as a mode to create the ideal political system, but a means of determining the principles necessary to establish any successful governing system.
Mill continued to contribute to many philosophical journals and various newspapers in later years as he worked on his greater works on logic and on political economy, namely the two volume A System of Logic and Principles of Political Economy, respectively.
In 1851, John Stuart Mill married Harriet Taylor after twenty years of friendship and two years since the death of her first husband. Harriet died seven years into the marriage, just months after Mill’s retirement at the East India Company. However, her impact on Mill’s life was undeniable. He referred to her as his biggest influence and as a more intelligent thinker than himself. His praise for her is without bounds, he credits her for inspiring his spontaneity and original thoughts in his life and writings. He also became an advocate for her issues of interest, such as birth control and women’s rights. After Harriet’s death, Mill turned his adulation onto her daughter, his stepdaughter Helen who he acclaimed as another brilliant inspiration.
Mill published a series of writings on politics and ethics based on discussions he and Harriet had and manuscript writings they had collaborated on. On Liberty, one of Mill’s most renown essay’s published in 1859 opened with a moving dedication to his late wife. Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform followed closely that same year while his Considerations on Representative Government, were published soon after, in 1861.
Mill’s interest in current politics and issues of the day did not wane aside all of his writing, and in actuality he ran for and won the Parliamentary seat of Westminster without any campaigning since he found it improper to attempt to sway the vote due to his beliefs on political process. He actively debated the 1867 Reform Bill on the floor of Parliament, convincing the government to make many useful changes to the bill. He worked diligently for the fair representation of women, and the reduction of the national debt.
Mill died in Avignon on May 6, 1873 after a successful career in Parliament and a lifetime of influencing and changing political and philosophical thought of the day.

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