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date: 19 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter offers an overview of some of the most significant aspects of J. S. Mill’s work in moral, social, and political philosophy and presents a balanced picture of the debates between interpreters over how this work should be understood without remaining strictly neutral. On the reading developed herein, Mill’s moral theory comprises a hedonistic theory of value and a rule-utilitarian theory of obligation. While not a ‘virtue ethicist’ per se, he attaches paramount importance to the development of our distinctly human faculties and the formation of desirable habits. These moral views underlie his social and political philosophy, including his famous ‘liberty’ or ‘harm’ principle, defence of women’s liberation, advocacy of an employee-ownership economy, and call for a system of government that balances democratic and elitist tendencies. Mill’s social and political philosophy is ‘utopian’ inasmuch as it aims at making it possible for virtually everyone to enjoy a genuinely happy life.

Keywords: John Stuart Mill, utilitarianism, rule utilitarianism, pleasure, hedonism, liberalism, socialism, democracy, elitism, utopianism

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