Why is John Stuart Mill so important?
Here is a quotation from a brilliant essay on Mill by Isaiah Berlin entitled John Stuart Mill and the Ends of Life:
"Mill is not interested in actuarial calculations. At the center of his thought and feeling lies, not his utilitarianism, nor the concern about enlightenment, nor about dividing the private from the public domain—but his attempt to fuse rationalism and romanticism; the aim of Goethe and Humboldt; a rich, spontaneous, many-sided, fearless, free, and yet rational, self-directed character. He perceived something profound and essential about the destructive effect of man's most successful efforts at self-improvement in modern society."
Berlin alerts us to the extraordinary insight of Mill as he lived through the mid-nineteenth century and contended with the two conflicting visions of the previous 100 years: Enlightenment Rationalism and Romantic emotionalism. This was the great debate of Voltaire and Rousseau. But now in 1850 you added trains and coal.
John Stuart Mill (20 May 1806 – 8 May 1873) was an English philosopher, political economist and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of liberalism, he contributed widely to social theory, political theory and political economy. Dubbed "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century", Mill's conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state and social control. Mill was a proponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by his predecessor Jeremy Bentham, and contributed significantly to the theory of the scientific method. A member of the Liberal Party, he was also the first Member of Parliament to call for women's suffrage.
John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand,
Atlantic Books; Main edition (September 1, 2008),
John Stuart Mill,
On Liberty and the Subjection of Women,
Penguin Classics; 1 edition (April 24, 2007),