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The utilitarian theory of John Stuart Mill

The utilitarian theory of John Stuart Mill

June 17, 2024

John Stuart Mill was one of the most influential philosophers in Western thought and in later development of Psychology. In addition to being one of the referents of the last phase of the Enlightenment, many of its ethical and political approaches served to shape the purposes of the science of behavior and ideas about the idea of ​​the mind.

Next we will give a summary review to the utilitarian theory of John Stuart Mill and his thinking .

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Who was John Stuart Mill?

This philosopher was born in London in the year 1806. His father, James Mill, was one of the friends of the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, and soon embarked his son in a hard and demanding program of education to turn him into an intellectual. After leaving the university because of a collapse, he dedicated himself to work in the East India Company, and also to write.


In 1931 He started a friendship with Harriet Taylor, with whom he would marry 20 years later . Harriet was a fighter for the rights of women and her influence was clearly reflected in the way of thinking of John Stuart Mill, who as a defender of the Enlightenment believed in the principle of equality and his philosophy on the subject, therefore, it would be comparable to the liberal feminism that developed later.

From 1865 to 1868, John Stuart Mill He was a parliamentarian in London , and from this position his philosophy gained even more visibility.

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The theory of John Stuart Mill

The main aspects of John Stuart Mill's thinking are the following.


1. The greatest good for the greatest number of people

Stuart Mill was very influenced by Jeremy Bentham, a good friend of his family. If Plato believed that goodness was the truth, Bentham was a radical utilitarian, and he believed that the idea of ​​good amounted to usefulness.

John Stuart Mill did not reach the extremes of Bentham , but he did put the idea of ​​the useful in a high place in his philosophical system. When it comes to establishing what is morally correct, then, established that you have to pursue the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

2. The idea of ​​freedom

In order to achieve the above objective, people must have the freedom to establish what is what makes them happy and allows them to live well. Only in this way is it possible to create a moral system without there being a totalizing idea and imposed (and therefore contrary to the principles of the Enlightenment) of the good.


3. The limits of freedom

To ensure that people's personal happiness search projects do not overlap each other causing unfair harm, it's important avoid what directly harms the rest .

4. The sovereign subject

Now, it is not easy to distinguish between a situation that benefits a person and one in which another loses. For this, John Stuart Mill situates a clear limit that should not be crossed by imposed wills: the own body . Something undoubtedly bad is that which involves an unwanted interference in a body or in your health.

Thus, Stuart Mill establishes the idea that each person is sovereign of his own body and mind. However, the body is not the only thing that creates a limit that can not be transferred, but the minimum, the safe in all cases, regardless of context. There is another moral frontier: the one that raises private property. This is considered an extension of the sovereign subject itself , like the body.

5. The fixism

Fixism is the idea that beings remain isolated from the context . It is a concept widely used in psychology and philosophy of mind, and that John Stuart Mill defended despite not using this word.

Basically, the fact that each person is sovereign over their body and mind is a way to establish a conceptual framework in which the starting point is always the individual, something that is related to what is beyond their own properties. of it or negotiating, winning or losing, but not changing.

This idea is totally integrated, for example, with the behavioral way of understanding the human being. The behaviorists, especially from the contributions of B. F. Skinner to this field, they believe that each person is the result of transactions between stimuli (what they perceive) and responses (what they do). In other words, they do not exist in a way that is foreign to the context.

In conclusion

Western countries of the contemporary era. It starts from an individualistic conception of the human being and establishes that, by default, nothing is bad if it does not flagrantly harm someone.However, ontologically his conception of the human being is dualistic, and that is why many psychologists, and especially behaviourists, oppose them.


Utilitarianism - John Stuart Mill (June 2024).


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