Even Amy Chua, the Yale professor who introduced “tiger mother” to the American vernacular, would consider John Stuart Mill’s upbringing unusually rigorous. Mill’s father, a Scottish philosopher and economist, wished to instill in Mill a genius so sharp that the future of utilitarianism would be all but guaranteed. Mill obliged. He began learning Greek at age three, Latin at eight, and had become an intellect worthy of tenure at any modern university by the age at which most American students are still struggling through the novel Holes.
Unfortunately Oxford and Cambridge were out of Mill’s reach. His refusal to adhere to the Church of England’s Thirty-nine Articles of Religion made him ineligible for enrollment, so he studied at University College in London instead. Mill spent most of his life working for the British East India Company, during which time he championed British imperialism, and became Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews in 1865. St. Anthony’s Fire took him shortly thereafter.
Classical liberalism’s foremost thinkers often include quotes by John Stuart Mill in their writing to this day. His concept of liberty as a justification for individual freedom in opposition to state or social control endures as an underpinning of modern libertarianism. His prodigious body of work advanced social and political theory, and true to his father’s intentions he advanced the principles of utilitarianism throughout his accomplished literary career.
In his essay On Liberty, Mill discussed the nature and limits of the influence society should hold over an individual. It was in this essay that Mill expounded on the harm principle, which holds that power is only rightly exercised when the authority’s goal “is to prevent harm to others.” Those “incapable of self-government” (including children and barbarous peoples) were excluded from the protections prescribed by this principle.
Mill argued that social liberty must exist to shield individuals from tyranny, and expanded the concept of tyranny to include sources other than political elites. Mill categorically rejected the will of the majority as sufficient justification for the negation of individual rights. In Mill’s worldview each and every individual is a sovereign, free to do as they please provided they not harm others in effect. Mill was also an absolutist on the subject of freedom of speech, contending that even the falsest opinions deserve to be broadcast in an open exchange of ideas. Where else could they be better disproven?
Although Mill’s views on colonialism would have gotten him tarred and feathered by modern academics, he drew considerable ire in his own time for advocating abolition and gender equality. As a member of parliament Mill even advocated amending the Reform Bill to replace the word “man” with “person.”
A summary of Mill’s contributions to the philosophy of utilitarianism should take up a book, not this paragraph. In essence, John Stuart Mill quotes Jeremy Bentham’s Greatest Happiness Principle: “actions are right in the proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” Provided that an act produces a justifiable outcome – i.e. achieves the greatest good for the greatest number of people – then the act, itself, is justified.
John Stuart Mill On Liberty Quotes
John Stuart Mill Utilitarianism Quotes
John Stuart Mill Free Speech Quotes
John Stuart Mill Quotes on Happiness
John Stuart Mill Famous Quotes
John Stuart Mill Hate Speech Quotes
Do you disagree with any of the John Stuart Mill quotes included above? Then please go ahead and so – Mill would have wanted you to! John Stuart Mill would also approve of all the other great minds that we have immortalized on this very blog – minds such as Henry Hazlitt, Walter E. Williams, Hunter S. Thompson, and many more.
Who is Ayn Rand? Born to a middle class Russian-Jewish family in 1905, Rand was treated to a front row seat to the wonders of communism in action. Rand fled with her family to the Crimea following the “liberation” of her father’s pharmacy but ultimately returned to Saint Petersburg where she could attend university when she wasn’t busy starving. Due to her life experiences, Ayn Rand quotes are some of the most thought-provoking in the world.