Frederick Rosen presents an original study of John Stuart Mill's moral and political philosophy. He explores a range of key themes across the breadth of Mill's works, and considers Mill's complex relationships with his contemporary thinkers; the traditional sources on which he drew; and his influence on major thinkers of recent centuries.
This paper examines the commonplace assertion that utilitarianism allows for and even, at times, requires the punishment of the innocent. It traces the origins of this doctrine to the writings of the British Idealists and the subsequent development of what is called the post-utilitarian paradigm which posits various justifications for punishment such as retribution, deterrence and reform, finds all of them inadequate, and then, with the addition of other ideas, reconciles them. The idea of deterrence is falsely depicted as the (...) utilitarian contribution to the theory of punishment, while deterrence in fact is one of several elements in the utilitarian theory. The mistake comes from ignoring the pain-pleasure dimension of Benthamite utilitarianism and from regarding the principle of utility itself as the sole criterion of action in a ‘top-down’ fashion. (shrink)
Exploring the connection between Bentham and Byron forged by the Greek struggle for independence, this book focuses on the activities of the London Greek Committee, supposedly founded by disciples of Jeremy Bentham, which mounted the expedition on which Lord Byron ultimately met his death in Greece. Rosen's penetrating study provides a new assessment of British philhellenism and examines for the first time the relationship between Bentham's theory of constitutional government and the emerging liberalism of the 1820s. Breaking new ground in (...) the history of political ideas and culture in the early nineteenth century, Rosen advances striking new interpretations based on recently published texts and manuscript sources of the development of constitutional theory from Locke and Montesquieu, the conflicting strands of liberalism in the 1820s, and the response in Britain to strong claims for national self-determination in the Mediterranean basin. He sets out to distinguish between Bentham's theory and the ideological context against which it is usually interpreted. (shrink)
This book presents a new interpretation of the principle of utility in moral and political theory based on the writings of the classical utilitarians from Hume to J.S. Mill. Discussion of utility in writers such as Adam Smith, William Paley and Jeremy Bentham is included.
Piety is not a theme that normally attracts the modern mind. In our own age rebellion has a more prominent position and the theme of impiety strikes a more sympathetic note. We are led to examine Plato's Euthyphro as much for the hints we find on the subject of impiety as for whatever it might contain on the seemingly drab subject of the holy. The Euthyphro is also a dialogue concerned with justice, a recurrent theme in the Platonic corpus, and (...) it questions the accepted relationship of justice to piety and orthodoxy. The secular implications of the argument, which seem to be the more important to Socrates, himself, are as relevant to modern politics and religion as they were to the life of ancient Athens. (shrink)
This article considers Bentham's response to the criticism of utilitarianism that it allows for and may even require the sacrifice of some members of society in order to increase overall happiness. It begins with the contrast between the principle of utility and the contrasting principle of sympathy and antipathy to show that Bentham regarded the main achievement of his principle as overcoming the subjectivity he found in all other philosophical theories. This subjectivism, especially prevalent in theories of rights, might well (...) lead to the sacrifice of the individual. The principle of utility was presented as an ‘objective’ theory that avoided the difficulties of other moral and political theories. The article also considers the importance of universally applicable ends, such as security and equality, as part of the principle of utility, and especially Bentham's view of maximizing pleasure as being a distributive rather than an aggregative idea. The article concludes by criticizing H. L. A. Hart's interpretation of the role of equality and rights in Bentham and John Stuart Mill, and argues that Mill's doctrine of moral rights builds on foundations originally established by Bentham, foundations which would preclude the sacrifice of individuals. (shrink)
Most recent discussions of John Stuart Mill’s System of Logic (1843) neglect the fifth book concerned with logical fallacies. Mill not only follows the revival of interest in the traditional Aristotelian doctrine of fallacies in Richard Whately and Augustus De Morgan, but he also develops new categories and an original analysis which enhance the study of fallacies within the context of what he calls ‘the philosophy of error’. After an exploration of this approach, the essay relates the philosophy of error (...) to the discussion of truth and error in chapter two of On Liberty (1859) concerned with freedom of thought and discussion. Drawing on Socratic and Baconian perspectives, Mill defends both the traditional study of logic against Jevons, Boole, De Morgan, and others, as well as the study of fallacies as the key to maintaining truth and its dissemination in numerous fields, such as science, morality, politics, and religion. In Mill’s view the study of fallacies also liberates ordinary people to explore the truth and falsity of ideas and, as such, to participate in society and politics and develop themselves as progressive beings. (shrink)
This article explores the relationship between utility and justice in the ancient Epicurean tradition, and as it developed in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries following the revival of Epicureanism in the writings of Pierre Gassendi. It focuses on the significance of various allusions to a line from Horace, 'utilitas, justi prope mater et aequi' , which appeared in writings of Hugo Grotius, David Hume, and Jeremy Bentham, and was used to give utility a prominence in modern thought that it had (...) not hitherto received. The article attempts to provide the context for Hume's belief in the Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals that the foundation of justice was utility and for Bentham placing utility at the foundation of his system. (shrink)
This essay considers the relationship between crime, punishment and individual liberty in three main thinkers of the Enlightenment: Montesquieu, Beccaria and Bentham. It examines the development of the idea of a proportion between crime and punishment and challenges the view that the eighteenth-century Enlightenment was engaged in the creation of a new form of oppression through a system of rational punishment which was intended to replace that of the medieval period.
The classical utilitarian legacy of Jeremy Bentham, J. S. Mill, James Mill, and Henry Sidgwick has often been charged with both theoretical and practical complicity in the growth of British imperialism and the emerging racialist discourse of the nineteenth century. But there has been little scholarly work devoted to bringing together the conflicting interpretive perspectives on this legacy and its complex evolution with respect to orientalism and imperialism. This volume, with contributions by leading scholars in the field, represents the first (...) attempt to survey the full range of current scholarly controversy on how the classical utilitarians conceived of 'race' and the part it played in their ethical and political programs, particularly with respect to such issues as slavery and the governance of India. The book both advances our understanding of the history of utilitarianism and imperialism and promotes the scholarly debate, clarifying the major points at issue between those sympathetic to the utilitarian legacy and those critical of it. (shrink)
The four essays in this volume examine the most central issues that face liberal democratic regimes. They tackle the protection of individual liberty, the basic principles of ethics, the benefits and the costs of representative institutions, and the central importance of gender equality in society.
This paper has been prompted by the conviction that a number of ethical and political doctrines in Plato remain obscure and somewhat unintelligible unless related to the contemplative experience of the Platonic philosopher. 1 I shall concentrate here on one such doctrine, the distinction between philosophic and popular virtue, especially as it appears in the Phaedo and the Gorgias . But in order first to clarify our conception of the relationship between contemplation and virtue, I shall examine the fourteenth-century English (...) classic, The Cloud of Unknowing , which is mainly concerned with the practice of contemplation and only remotely connected with Plato. 2 One finds in The Cloud a perceptive account of the contemplative's acquisition of ‘perfect’ virtue which enables us to see the distinction between philosophic and popular virtue in Plato in a fresh light. After discussing the important passage in the Phaedo where the distinction is drawn, I shall criticise the account of virtue in Plato given by D. Z. Phillips and H. O. Mounce in Moral Practices where the contemplative context is minimised by their endeavour to see morality wholly in terms of conventions . 3 In this section, the argument between Socrates and Polus in the Gorgias will be discussed in light of the way Phillips and Mounce distinguish their respective ethical positions. The object of the paper is not only to point to the significance of contemplation in Plato's ethics which has been overlooked by many modern philosophers, but also to note the way our understanding of the dialogue form in Plato depends on the unique perspective of the contemplative philosopher. (shrink)
I am grateful to Professor Lyons for his comments on several aspects of Classical Utilitarianism from Hume to Mill and to the Review Editor of Utilitas for inviting me to reply. I hope that Professor Lyons will not object to my first pointing out to the reader that the book consists mainly of a series of substantial chapters on philosophers who have not always been regarded as utilitarian thinkers, such as Hume, Smith and Helvétius, or have been interpreted as utilitarians (...) in different, if not opposing, ways, such as Paley, Bentham and J. S. Mill. A main feature of the book is to show that what links their approaches to utility is the presence of Epicureanism in their writings, and I attempt to uncover a more coherent tradition employing the idea of utility than scholars have hitherto believed existed. (shrink)
A journey usually has a starting point and a destination. In this brief essay only a portion of this journey can be discussed: that which begins with Mill’s search for a new conception of liberty which he first developed in Principles of Political Economy (1848) and then considered in another context in On Liberty (1859). Here, we shall confine our attention to the concepts that enabled Mill to make this journey. We shall conclude by considering the question of whether or (...) not Mill should be considered a believer in a socialist ideology. There is no simple answer to this question. It will be argued that part of the problem lies less with the kind of socialism that might appeal to Mill and more with Mill’s conception of his role in public life as a logician and philosopher rather than as a public moralist advancing ideological views. (shrink)
The tendency to see English utilitarianism as a fundamentally different enterprise from that of the so-called Scottish Enlightenment is mistaken. One must read Hume backwards, which, despite Hume’s own advice, is rarely done by Hume scholars. In doing so, one more fully appreciates the importance of utility to Hume, and Bentham’s subsequent employment of Hume’s ideas.
Este artículo se centra en las Consideraciones sobre el Gobierno Representativo y en el aparente abandono que llevaría a cabo John Stuart Mill en esta obra de su radicalismo. Las Consideraciones son un importante trabajo que desafía a la mayoría de los tratados de política, dejando a un lado toda explicación fundacional de la sociedad política, incluso la utilitarista. La metodología de las Consideraciones se centra, sorprendentemente, en la evaluación del papel de la virtud en la vida de las personas, (...) así como en la defensa de la importancia de la idea de “carácter activo”. Finalmente, se analizan en este trabajo la sposiciones millianas en las Consideraciones sobre un “amplio número de aspectos del Gobierno popular”: el voto secreto, la elección y destitución popular de los jueces, latirnaía de las mayorías, el sufragio universal, así como la posibilidad de una política regresiva aún dentro de un gobierno representativo. (shrink)