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Type: Conference paper
Title: A new light for On Liberty: John Stuart Mill and the ‘Internal Culture of the Individual’
Author: Goldstone, Alan Mark
Citation: Proceedings of the Australasian Political Studies Association conference, 25-27 September, 2006: pp.1www-17www
Issue Date: 2006
Conference Name: Australasian Political Studies Association Conference (2006 : Newcastle, New South Wales)
School/Discipline: School of History and Politics : History
Abstract: This paper seeks to refute the standard interpretation of John Stuart Mill as an inconsistent and incoherent thinker. Traditionally, Mill’s mental ‘crisis’ of 1826-7, during which he was incapacitated by depression, is taken as clear evidence that he acknowledged the failings of his early beliefs, yet was unable to successfully incorporate his new insights into any form of systematic philosophy. However, Mill himself tells us that he never felt unsettled or conflicted in his beliefs. I argue that common to all of Mill’s writings is the notion of the formation of character. Mill argues consistently that the individual pursuit of a ‘balanced’ and ‘noble’ character will overall be most conducive to maximising utility. This paper aims to demonstrate a systematic and unavoidable connection between Mill’s notion of the formation of character, as initially explained in the System of Logic, and his simultaneous defence of utility in Utilitarianism and of moral and intellectual liberty in On Liberty. These later essays are thus not interpreted merely as the spontaneous ramblings of an inconsistent and confused thinker, but as a legitimate, logical extension of arguments deeply rooted in Mill’s idea of the importance of developing an elevated and ‘complete’ character, incorporating both the emotional and intellectual faculties. Successfully re-aligned into their original, chronological position, the arguments of On Liberty and Utilitarianism form part of a coherent framework present throughout Mill’s writing.
RMID: 0020085407
Appears in Collections:History publications

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