What was John Stuart Mill's formulation of utilitarianism?

Mill showed how the principle of utility can be used to account for individual action and collective values. As a consequence of individuals seeking their own happiness, the good of society as a personal goal might be a result. Social values such as justice, in Mill's account, do not benefit society as mere abstractions, but only if individuals seek them out in their own lives.

What was John Stuart Mill's final assessment of religious belief?

Mill concluded that, given the evils of this world, it is impossible that there is a God who is both all powerful and loves humankind. He did think, though, that it was likely that there exists a less than omnipotent but nonetheless benevolent deity. Overall, Mill believed that human beings can control their happiness on Earth through improvements in education and social institutions. Still, he saw the utility of religion for some who modeled their own morality based on Jesus Christ's teachings.

What are John Stuart Mill's progressive ideas in The Subjection of Women?

Mill begins The Subjection of Women (1869) by saying that it is more difficult to argue against a position that is held on irrational grounds than one based on reasoning. (René Descartes [1596-1650] made a similar claim at the beginning of his Meditations.) Those who hold irrational views will not be persuaded to change them by rational argument but will just look for a more "profound" basis of their opinion, even to the point of claiming it is the result of instinct.

This set the stage for Mill's claim that the condition of women at the time he wrote was the result of a long historical tradition of "might makes right," combined with the power enjoyed by all men "simply by being born male." He compared this condition to slavery on a number of counts: women were completely dependent on men for their livelihood, being deprived of education and means for productive employment; women did not have control over their own bodies or children in marriage; women lacked civil rights, such as the right to vote or own property; and women were subject to violence and rape within marriage, without legal recourse.

Mill also claimed that women were trained to display the traits of mind and character (or lack thereof) that would make them desirable subordinates to men: stupidity, preoccupation with appearance, and adoration of and submission to men. Men assumed that all women wanted to be wives and mothers, which made their exclusion of them from education and the professions ironic, to say the least. But although marriage appeared to be a contractual relationship, women did not have any real freedom to withhold their consent because they could not earn a living on their own.

Against existing arguments that women were not the equals of men, Mill claimed that insofar as women had been so suppressed by their circumstances in marriage and lack of education, men knew very little about what their true capabilities were. He claimed that "the highest masculine and the highest feminine characters" were clearly equal.

What were John Stuart Mill's views on marriage?

Mill concluded that human virtue flourishes best in friendships between equals, and that was his ideal for marriage, "by a real enrichment of the two natures, each acquiring the tastes and capacities of the other." As a utilitarian, Mill justified this ideal of friendship between equals for marriage by claiming that it would allow half of the human population to make contributions to civilized life, which had not yet been made. He also believed that women had already demonstrated distinctive moral strengths and altruistic impulses, so that their participation in civic life and the professions would advance civilized values in general.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >