catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

JS Mill

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The bicentenary of this great man’s birth is coming up:

Mill’s greatness does not in fact lie in the power of his intellectual endeavour: he is far from being Britain’s greatest thinker. Nor does it lie in his political skills—by traditional criteria he was a political failure. The greatness of John Stuart Mill lies in his refusal to separate thought and action. He was a man who, like his godson Bertrand Russell, went to jail for his beliefs …

He wrote one of the definitive 19th-century works on political economy—and also worked tirelessly for Irish land reform. He produced a landmark argument for equal rights for women, and throughout his life pushed for legal and political reform on their behalf—Millicent Fawcett described him as the “principal originator” of the women’s movement. Mill made, in his famous On Liberty, a timeless case for freedom of speech and action that has inspired generation after generation around the world. But as an elderly MP he also led the successful campaign against Disraeli’s attempt to ban demonstrations in public parks, especially Hyde park—a corner of which remains a symbol of free speech to this day.

Mill was a man who saw little value in ideas unless they were tethered to human improvement, and was brilliantly successful at using his intellectual stature to influence the politics and culture of his age.


Written by Admin

April 26, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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