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John Stuart Mill, who has been called the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the 19th century, was a British philosopher, economist, and moral and political theorist. His works include books and essays covering logic, epistemology, economics, social and political philosophy, ethics, and religion, among them A System of Logic, On Liberty, and Utilitarianism.
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The major works started to appear in 1843 with A System of Logic, Mill’s most comprehensive and systematic philosophical work, which presented Mills’ thoughts on inductive logic and the shortcomings of the use of syllogisms (arguments derived from general principles, in which two premises are used to deduce a conclusion) to advance deductive logic.
The year 1859 marked the publication of On Liberty,
Mills’ landmark work on supporting individuals' moral and economic freedom from the government and society at large. In his autobiography, Mill wrote of "the importance, to man and society . . . , of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions,” an idea fully fleshed out in On Liberty. In the work, Mill asserts that individuals’ opinions and behavior should enjoy free rein, whether in the face of the law or social pressure. Perhaps as a segue into Mill’s Utilitarianism, which would follow four years later, Mill makes one concession: If a person's behavior harms other people, that behavior should be constrained. The essay has been criticized for various vagaries in its arguments, but it provides an impassioned defense of nonconformity, diversity and individuality.
In 1861, Utilitarianism first began appearing in serialized form in Fraser’s Magazine. The work comes from Mill’s association with, and partial break from, the moral philosophy of Jeremy Bentham and would go on to be Mill’s most famous work. It bolsters support for Bentham's philosophy and refutes certain misconceptions about it. In sum, utilitarianism as a moral philosophy rests on a single sentence: “Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.” In his book, Mill argues that utilitarianism stems from "natural" sentiments that exist organically within human beings' social nature. Therefore, if society were simply to embrace acts that minimize pain and maximize happiness, the standards created would form an easily and naturally internalized code of ethics. In his exploration of this issue, Mill transcends discussions of good and evil, and humanity’s fascination with concepts of them, and posits a single criterion for a universal morality.
Although Mill was influenced by utilitarianism, he nevertheless wrote again and again in defense of the importance of the rights of individuals—notably in defense of both suffrage for women and their equal rights in education. (His essay called “The Subjection of Women”  is an early, and at the time quite controversial, defense of gender equality, and because of it he is often considered a proto-feminist.) Mill’s belief that the majority often denies individual liberties drove his interest in social reform, and he was a strident activist on behalf of political reforms, labor unions and farm cooperatives. He has been called "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the 19th century” and is remembered as one of history’s great thinkers in regard to social and political theory.
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