John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) was another English political philosopher and write a very famous essay: “On Liberty,” which defined the limits of state involvement in human liberty. He was also a utilitarian philosopher and advocate of women’s rights.

Mill was a British economist, public servant, and philosopher John Stuart Mill is considered a linchpin of modern social and political theory. He contributed a critical body of work to the school of thought called liberalism, an ideology founding on the extension of individual liberties and economic freedoms. As such, Mill himself advocated strongly for the preserving of individual rights and called for limitations to the power and authority of the state over the individual. Mill was also a proponent of utilitarianism, which holds that the best action is one that maximizes utility, or stated more simply, one that provide the greatest benefit to all. This and other ideas found in Mill’s works have been essential to providing rhetorical basis for social justice, anti-poverty, and human rights movements. For his own part, as a member of Parliament, Mill became the first office-holding Briton to advocate for the right of women to vote.

Mill’s key contributions

  • Advocated strongly for the human right of free speech, and asserted that free discourse is necessary for social and intellectual progress;
  • Determined that most of history can be understood as a struggle between liberty and authority, and that limits must be placed on rulership such that it reflects society’s wishes;
  • Stated the need for a system of “constitutional checks” on state authority as a way of protecting political liberties.

Mill’s Key Works

  • On Liberty and the Subjection of Women (1859; 1869)
  • Utilitarianism (1861)