Talk:John Stuart Mill

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Need to modify "Freedom of Speech" section[edit]

The "Views on Freedom of Speech" section is simply a quote of one of the more unintelligible passages from "On Liberty". I propose the reason it is a quote rather than an encyclopedic enlightenment is because people are afraid to summarize it out of fear they don't understand it, which is all the more reason it should *not* be quoted, but summarized so that the modern reader can understand it. He's saying deeply held, popular, crucial beliefs should remain open to criticism because if they are wrong then the damage is all the more great. And by taking the case of something considered to be an exception to freedom of speech, he is providing an argument for a larger class. Although somewhat profound, it was not easy for me to figure it out, and I'm not sure it is a summary of his views on freedom of speech. Ywaz (talk) 11:48, 13 March 2011 (UTC)

"Religion of humanity"[edit]

Martha Nussbaum writes something about Mill's concept of the "religion of humanity", but I find nothing of that in this article. --13Peewit (talk) 08:36, 11 May 2011 (UTC)

I heard that Bertrand Russell had an epiphany when he read Mill's writing that if everything requires a cause then god should require a cause. (talk) 23:11, 18 July 2014 (UTC)

New York Review of Books resource[edit]

The Passionate Hero, Then and Now December 8, 2011 New York Review of Books Alan Ryan. John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeves, Atlantic Books (talk) 21:48, 25 November 2011 (UTC)

potential resource[edit] (talk) 07:30, 4 December 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

John Stuart Mill, Dead Thinker of the Year: The 19th century thinker still has much to teach us on liberty. by Robert D. Kaplan December 2011, excerpt ...

... which is why he is such an appropriate guide for these complicated times. Mill asserts, in On Liberty, and especially in Considerations on Representative Government, that while democratic government is surely to be preferred in theory, it is incredibly problematic in its particulars. This, of course, is part of Mill's larger exploration of liberty, and why ultimately the only justification a government has to curtail that liberty is when a person's behavior impinges on the rights of others. Despotism may work better in some instances, if only as a temporary measure, he writes; democracy is not suited for each and every society during significant periods of its development. I am crudely simplifying Mill, who is so clear while being so incredibly nuanced, and thus immensely readable. (talk) 01:32, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
Not a shred of potential relevance to this article. Furthermore, the quote is probably excessive, and has (probably intentionally) damaged Wikilinks. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 01:37, 5 December 2011 (UTC)
The quote is not excessive as compared to quotes in many other articles. There is no way that the quote can damage Wikilinks. Please explain how it could damage Wikilinks. It is a very thought–provoking quote and a very important one, especially for these times in which democratization is thought to be, by some, as a panacea.Lestrade (talk) 12:10, 5 December 2011 (UTC)Lestrade
What I mean by "damaged Wikilinks" is that the links do not refer to the same concept the quote contains. That is the sort of thing that can damage Wikipedia as a whole. We do not link within quotes, even on talk pages, unless (1) the meaning is not obvious and (2) our meaning is obviously what the speaker/writer intended. An example of failure of the latter is "a person's [[Human behavior|behavior]]"; while an example of both is "rights", in that Mill did have a specific meaning of "rights", and it is not ours. The anon is good at creating links where none should exist. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 00:00, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Arthur Rubin, please elaborate on why, as you say wikilinks "damage Wikipedia as a whole"? (talk) 00:47, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Incorrect wikilinks damage Wikipedia as a whole. As your understanding of English seems minimal, perhaps you do not understand why the links are incorrect. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 02:54, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia:Adminitis? (talk) 09:45, 7 December 2011 (UTC)
WP:COMPETENCE? And I haven't taken any admin action against you. — Arthur Rubin (talk) 09:48, 7 December 2011 (UTC)

Biography section[edit]

The biography section makes use of Mill's Autobiography as a record of his life, even mentioning his reading Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe as a child. I think its important to note that his Autobiography was not conventional and he was certainly adjusting the events of his life in order to make certain statements about his views, and so many of these details are debatable as having actually occurred. Those two books, for example, seem to symbolize Mill's isolation as a child as well as his fathers clinging to utilitarian views in a time when Romanticism is becoming popular. This may be a coincidental analysis, but it is an ongoing discussion. So, I think it is more appropriate to use the qualifiers such as "According to the Autobiography..." which is used in some paragraphs. Does any one else agree with this perspective on his biography? TreboniusArtorius (talk) 07:54, 21 May 2012 (UTC)

WikiProject Libertarianism?[edit]

I'm pretty sure that Mill was more of a democratic socialist than a libertarian, both economically and on social issues. He certainly was not anti-tax, anti-state, or anti-tariff. He was for a very regulated free market. —Cupco 23:01, 2 October 2012 (UTC)

JS Mill changed a lot over the course of his life. His first writings about individual liberty and tyranny of the majority are quintessentially libertarian whereas his later works (especially a book named Socialism) were more interventionist. So I think it is not unfair to add him to the libertarian / classical liberal tradition. -- (talk) 05:44, 12 December 2012 (UTC)
I do not think Mill was a libertarian or a classical liberal, but enough libertarians and classical liberals see Mill as one of their own that tag is not misplaced (much like "existentialism" wouldn't be misplaced on Heidegger or "utilitarianism" on Hume or Smith, though each is a tendentious claim). Also, Mill never really wrote a book called Socalism. He wrote some chapters on socialism (I believe they were going to go into a later edition of Principles of Political Economy), and they later got compiled into a book.2601:B:C580:2D9:CAF7:33FF:FE77:D800 (talk) 21:27, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

Confusing sentence[edit]

He propagated birth control as against moral restraint.

What does this sentence mean? Is it supposed to mean, "he favored birth control over (or against) moral restraint" or, "he propagated the idea that birth control runs contrary to the ideal of moral restraint (and shouldn't be emphasized or should be outlawed)", or something else entirely? TaintedMustard (talk) 17:08, 4 February 2013 (UTC)

I've replaced this with a more straighforward sentence and added a bit about his 1823 arrest for distributing birth control literature to clarify his position on birth control.3fingeredPete (talk) 01:31, 1 September 2013(UTC)
The entire article is written in horrible corkscrew prose using many largely unfamiliar terms (utilitarianism, inductive approach, confirmation bias, falsifiability — and those from just the first paragraph) which are nearly useless to the general reader. At least the summary should be re-written in such a way that a reader who hasn't already studied Mill's work doesn't get the idea that — as Frank McCourt wrote: "the people who wrote it don’t want the likes of me to know anything."Gillartsny (talk) 20:28, 4 February 2014 (UTC)

"Mill was known for reciting lecture and theory at children's birthday parties"?[edit]

What's the source of such claim? I can't find any on the internet as of now. He/she who added such a description should also provide the source. Anon J (talk) 10:00, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Clearly a joke (added 10 August). I'm removing it. GrindtXX (talk) 10:35, 13 August 2014 (UTC)

Strange second paragraph in the lead[edit]

The second paragraph in the lead is a real head-scratcher. It's confusingly written and could use some style improvements. I don't even know what "true freedom" means, or this sentence: "By establishing an appreciable level of worthiness concerned with one's ability to fulfill personal standards of notability and merit, Mill was able to provide many with a principal example of how they should achieve such particular values." (N.b., I am not the person who tagged "true freedom" as in need of clarification, but I guess I agree with them.)2601:B:C580:2D9:CAF7:33FF:FE77:D800 (talk) 21:15, 12 November 2014 (UTC)

I agree completely. I just made an attempt to clarify. I tried hard not to change the meaning of any sentence in the original, but rather just rewrote it with an easier style. Nick Beeson (talk) 12:25, 28 June 2015 (UTC)

Date of Birth[edit]

The page currently says his date of birth was "20 May 1806". However, in the 1913 Harrison House version of his own book, On Liberty: The philosophical work that changed society for ever, it directly states in the "About the author" section that Mill was "born on the 10th of May 1806". I will provide the source and change the date where appropriate. Bataaf van Oranje (talk) 15:34, 21 July 2015 (UTC)

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography gives the date 20 May, as does its predecessor, the Dictionary of National Biography (1894), both of which I think are more authoritative than an edition of On Liberty published in the U.S. 40 years after his death. Please do not change unless you have some definitive evidence to the contrary. GrindtXX (talk) 17:37, 21 July 2015 (UTC)

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Not accurate to call him an atheist.[edit]

Mill was an agnostic, who did not subscribe to any existing theistic religion, but believed very strongly in freedom of conscience for all, and was often rebuked by atheists of the time for failing to attack religion fiercely enough. He believed Jesus of Nazareth was the best man who ever lived, something that few atheists would profess today (many wish to deny Jesus even existed). He was certainly raised an atheist by his father, but he rebelled against the dogmatic rigidity of his father's ideas throughout his adult life, while still believing they had merit (in spite of the undoubted damage his father had done him through his science experiment of an upbringing). He believed it was highly likely that God existed, but not the God that conventional Christians speak of, both infinitely powerful and infinitely compassionate--either God has limited powers, or does not wish to intervene in human affairs. I would suggest those who disagree with this assessment of him read Isaiah Berlin's essay on him in "Four Essays on Liberty." I won't edit the article for now, being no kind of authority on him, but that very flat and inaccurate profession of his atheism will have to go, because it is deeply misleading, and this is supposed to be a Wikipedia article, not a religious tract. At the very least, statements he made that contradict the notion that he was an atheist should be presented, so the reader can draw his or her own conclusions as to his beliefs. Xfpisher (talk) 20:04, 29 November 2015 (UTC) @Xfpisher:

hey man, if you could please start a paragraph/sketch of the argument that would sufficiently counter the atheist claim, i'd be happy to work off the rough citations/claims and improve it so that it could withstand the necessary scrutiny. six months without a response would suggest that your claim of Mill not being an atheist are true, so give at it and i'll help where i can! (talk) 17:59, 8 June 2016 (UTC)


Some of the people who mill "influenced" aren't worthy. One individual who immediately comes to mind is Kruggy poo, aka Kruggsternator, aka Krugger, paul krugman.

Can we give Mill the respect he deserves by lopping off the unworthy? Krugger isn't in the same class as Dirac.

MANY of the people listed as "influenced aren't even in the 'second tier' (the last five on the list, for example)

In other words: the "influenced" list is rife with individuals who lack the merit to claim his influence.

It's not unreasonable to suggest the aforementioned unworthy have have benefited greatly from being on the list, but it's grossly misleading and inappropriate (among other things)
DIRAC said Mill was a HUGE influence. put that into perspective! there are so many jobbers on this list that aren't worthy! (talk) 01:12, 8 June 2016 (UTC)
  • This has to be based on sources, not argument. I don't know what it means to say someone "lacks the merit to say he's influenced, and the tone that is used above seems to indicate a very obvious sectarian political judgment that is none of our business. (And I do not immediately see the basis for Dirac's claim of influence--since they would seem to have worked in very different fields--this would need some explanation). But it does have to be selective, obviously every classical liberal, libertarian, free market theorist, women's rights advocate, and free speech advocate since his day has been influenced by him. Since even with sources it should still be limited to the major figures where the influence is significant It would probably be better expressed in a paragraph, not a group in an infobox, to permit some information about the nature of the influence to be given.
I suppose I should also mention that Paul Krugman is a living person, and the BLP sanctions apply. DGG ( talk ) 04:48, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
I don't think it's the job of other people to thoroughly explain how John Stuart Mill influenced Paul Dirac, but there is one obvious points i could make. I think any legitimate scientist would have to give Mill a lot of credit for A System of Logic, specifically Mill's Methods. You could say that my area of expertise isn't necessarily philosophy (i'm into mathematics and computing science), however, Mill's Methods was extremely influential; similar for Dirac. When you read the lede, it should be obvious as to why it was influential ("illuminate issues of causation"). After reading the philosophical (and mathematical, see method of difference) arguments proposed by Mill, it should be obvious that each method can serve as a guide for experimental design. Thus, experimental designs incorporating Mill's Methods are likely to yield more fruit for the philosophical issues behind causation in science.
So here we see that conducting a real-world (empirical) experiment with some simple philosophical guidance (mill's methods), has the potential to produce more fruit for both philosophy and science (assuming the result is good and adheres to Mill's Methods). This would be what Dirac was interested in; at the time of his prominence, there were many issues surrounding (for example, measurement in quantum mechanics) and the field was inundated with many obscure theories that were detrimental to the simplicity that Dirac (and myself) desired. Introducing simplistic theoretical/philosophical experimental designs, like those proposed by Mill, stood to improve our understanding of Nature (at both the micro and macroscopic scale). If you read Dirac's bio you'll see he kind of lost his love for the area of physics when renormalization was introduced (see Renormalization#Attitudes and interpretation), because it was arbitrarily ignoring things that it should not have been. The argument he makes would arguably fall within Mill's System of Logic; that is, the attempts of renormalization did not adhere to the rigorous philosophical principles set out by Mill, because its proponents were so fixated on solving the problem that they felt Dirac's criticism would ultimately fall by the wayside (it hasn't).
does this sort of make it clear how Mill's work in the philosophy of science (System of Logic Mill's Methods) would impact a mathematician/physicist such as Dirac? (talk) 17:36, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
Now, regarding the claim that I am taking a politically sectarian approach: you are incorrect. I do not have any party affiliations in Canada. You could say that I have some conservative principles, but none of those principles are inherited from American republicanism. Many of my influences are old (Francis Bacon John Locke William Gilbert Robert Walpole Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington Horatio Nelson Winston Churchill The Sun King Thales Pythagoras Archimedes John Stuart Mill James Mill Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis Michael Faraday Ernest Rutherford J. J. Thomson Lord Kelvin Charles Darwin Charles Lyell John Playfair Humphry Davy etc) so I do not think it would be fair to say that my attiude is borne out of sectarianism. It is borne out of the disgust that I have to those who add jobbers, because as you said: people like Mill had a HUGE influence on MANY people (even today), but many of you are "arts kids".
People like Dirac and myself (yes, me, i actually *implicitly* used Mill's Methods in my work, and later cited the Method of difference.) actually sought to USE his philosophy in our SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTS. I understand he did philosophise a bit, but that does not mean his work had no bearing prominent scientists. Scientific thought has always been a hallmark of the Commonwealth Realms, but admittedly: encoding these principles to produce a fruitful result has been challenging (and also a goal that was set out by the great Sir Francis Bacon over 400 years ago). Many of us have tried to contribute as much as we can to achieve the overall goal of a philosophical experimental design that could yield further theoretical fruit (a sort of metaphysics if you will, but probably more metamathematics). now that we're here, and in spite of the large entities that have continually tried to prevent the dissemination of the culmination of the Commonwealth Realms' five-century-plus excursion, i am going to defend "our guys". I don't like when people try to highjack influential people such as Mill because many of them don't deserve to be mentioned. Mill was committed to a higher goal than those listed in the "influences" (aside from Dirac), althewhile representing our great nation. These are "our guys". we funded them and we will defend them, even if the latter is only confined to "petty" removals of unworthy "influences".
anyways, nice chat. i'll be happy to continue it (somewhat) if you'd like. i would like to remove some more names from that "influenced" list, but not many more. could you make a few suggestions as to who you'd prefer be removed? i would appreciate your input because i'm not a philosopher, i'm a natural philosopher (a real one... just fyi). cheers matey (talk) 17:36, 10 June 2016 (UTC)
Perhaps you have not noticed that one of the fundamental principles of wikipedia is WP:No original research,which means that we describe things not by our own opinions, but as justified by the sources. And I base my opinion about the reason for your comments on the outrageous language you used with respect to Krugman, making fun of his name. If this is ever repeated with respect to a living person, you will be blocked under the provisions of WP:BLP. DGG ( talk ) 03:35, 11 June 2016 (UTC)
perhaps you haven't noticed that, unlike the UNCITED "influenced" people who were on the list, I provided sources for my claim that Mill influences Dirax. Not only that, but I courteously tried to explain ONE way Mill's scientific philosophy applied to Dirac's work. I did not need to do this, but I was trying to be nice. Your petty response reminds me of User:Fountains of Bryn Mawr's, who tried to say James Gregory (mathematician)'s influence on Isaac Barrow (mathematician) as "original research" even when I gave sources. It seems people like yourself and Bryn Mawr label anything above your comprehension as "original research". Given the involving nature of Dirac's work, which involved the Philosophy of Science, physics, it's easy for the learned people to see the impact of Mill's work. It is hypocritical and disingenuous of you to defend people who were on the "influenced" list when there's far less evidence supporting their insertion than Dirac.
Further, it seems select custodians of this site love to challenge my claims, many of which are substantiated, but offer little rebuttal except in the form of a threat to ban me, when I try to stimulate a conversation. May I ask why you think a playful reference to one's name is relevant to your original demand? How am I making fun of his name? My name is Gagan Sidhu, and I've called myself "gagz" and I've been called variants that involve the word "gay". I'm not saying "because it happened to me, I can do it too"; quite the opposite. The intention wasn't to insult Krugman's name, but just lighten the mood. I didn't think terms like Krugsternator (like Krugman the terminator, which could just as easily be guggsternator [like gagan the terminator]) were offensive, but since you found it so I won't do it again.
lastly, I don't know why you're upset with me. I'm more than qualified to give my opinion here. It's cool if you don't like it, or me, for that matter, but people in the area of economics have been abusing tools from my area (machine learning)) for ages. Our tools have been misused to misappropriate billions of dollars, and I'm one of the few field leaders who is in a position to speak out against it. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot; when I saw Krugman's name, and knowing how poor analysis in economics abuses our tools, I decided to take a lighthearted approach to expressing disapproval. Clearly you were offended by my use of "Krug-<suffix>", so I apologise for that.
Now will you help me narrow this list down or not? I'm trying to be collaborative. (talk) 17:38, 11 June 2016 (UTC)
edit: here you go User:DGG, this should put any doubts you have about my reference to rest. I just a passage in the listed references that corroborate the statements at a high level (bottom of page 43, top of page 44 in The Strangest Man):

In a memoir he wrote in his seventies, DIrac said he gave 'a lot of thought' to philosophy, trying to understand what it could contribute to physics. He recalled that he read A System of Logic 'all through', which we can safely interpret to mean he read and pondered almost every word of it, his usual practice. Although he found it 'pretty dull', it introduced to him the important idea that the disparate scientific observations and theories he had learned about had an underlying unity. Furthermore, science should seek to describe this unity using the fewest possible laws of nature, each of them formulated in the simplest possible way. Although this probably influenced the thinking of the young Dirac, he concluded that philosophy was not an effective way of finding out what makes nature tick. Rather, as he put it in an interview in 1963, 'it's just a way of talking about the discoveries which have already been made'.

hopefully this helps you understand Mill's influence on Dirac better. (talk) 18:23, 11 June 2016 (UTC)

Comments on RFC[edit]

Comment User:,re: hopefully this helps you understand Mill's influence on Dirac better , no it helps us to understand that you have no idea how WP works, and no interest in reading and absorbing DGG's simple concise advice above. No one coming to this RfC is going to wade through your acres of WP:OR. Pincrete (talk) 00:38, 16 June 2016 (UTC)

Not convincing The author of the passage cited to support inclusion notes that Dirac found Mill dull and turned away from philosophy. He then speculates that Dirac "probably" was influenced by Mill. Speculation is insufficient here. If this is the only source, which it appears to be, Dirac should be removed from the "influenced" list. HGilbert (talk) 10:30, 22 June 2016 (UTC)

Comment it seems the IP comes here with an agenda. Also, the quoted passage does not indicate that Dirac was influenced by Mill. In fact Dirac seemed to think that philosophy only discusses what has been already discovered and he seems to say that philosophy was in the overall not useful to him. So, this source does not work. ---Steve Quinn (talk) 04:06, 29 June 2016 (UTC)

Comment "It's not unreasonable to suggest the aforementioned unworthy have have benefited greatly from being on the list." Actually, I would argue it is extremely unreasonable to suggest that. Besides that, this whole "influence/influenced" thing in the infobox is at risk of becoming a coatrack. If it is in fact information worth including in the article (of which I'm not entirely convinced), it should be turned into prose and added to the article itself. At the very least, names included should be conservatively restricted to Mill's core areas - philosophy, economic science, social sciences, etc. As far as whether Paul Krugman is a "jobber," I'm not sure which definition of the term the OP is using but I am quite sure it is inaccurate (and makes his entire claim seem biased as a result). I would argue Krugman (an economist and political commentator) is far more relevant to JS Mill than Dirac. The Immanuel Kant article's infobox "influence" section seems to strictly include philosophers - most of whom are no longer living persons and have many sources attesting to their influence - which I think should be emulated here (so no Dirac, and perhaps not Krugman either unless we have multiple reliable sources to point to). I would also note that the OP appears to have not cited a single source to prove any of his assertions, though admittedly I might have missed it through that essay they wrote about their own influences and beliefs. WP:NOTAFORUM , WP:Original Research <> Alt lys er svunnet hen (talk) 05:51, 5 July 2016 (UTC)

Why is his office as Member of Parliament mentioned in lead?[edit]

Mill is not notable for being a MP; is it really worth mentioning in the lead? HGilbert (talk) 10:51, 22 June 2016 (UTC)

I'd argue that since he was the first MP to call for women's suffrage, his notability as an MP deserves mention in the lede. We don't mention it in the first sentence because he isn't well known for being an MP in modern times, but it would probably be a disservice to the article to omit it from the section entirely. <> Alt lys er svunnet hen (talk) 06:00, 5 July 2016 (UTC)

Proposed article changes[edit]

A new contributor modified the lead [1]. I left a message on their talk page and reverted their edit [2], so the proposed changes can be discussed here. Steve Quinn (talk) 05:01, 27 August 2016 (UTC)

/Liberty/ Removed misplaced quotation w/ unsupportive citation[edit]

In the 'Liberty' section there was an out-of-place quotation, apparently by Mill, but not supported by the link provided as a citation. (Which was

Rather than just tag it as unsupported/dubious, I removed it because the same point about Mill - his views towards 'uncivilized' countries being exempt from law, basically - is made further down the page, where it fits in with the topic much better. It also made the section seem editorialized, squeezing in a shot at Mill which felt redundant and non-objective (especially considering the nature of the citation). (talk) 19:07, 2 December 2016 (UTC)

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