DEFINITION of 'John Stuart Mill'

John Stewart Mill was a philosopher, an economist, a senior official in the East India Company and a son of James Mill. John Stewart Mill is most well-known for his 1848 work, "Principles of Political Economy," which combined the concentrations of philosophy and economics and advocated that population limits and slowed economic growth would be beneficial to the environment and increase public goods. He is also known for his earlier work, "System of Logic," which outlined the methods of science and how they can be applied to social mechanics.

BREAKING DOWN 'John Stuart Mill'

John Stuart Mill was born in 1806 and lived until 1873. He grew up in a strict household under a firm father and was required to learn history, Greek, Latin, mathematics and economic theory at a very young age. He is subsequently considered one of the most influential British thought leaders on political discourse, including epistemology, economics, ethics, metaphysics, social and political philosophy and other concentrations. In order of publication, his best known works are "A System of Logic," "Principles of Political Economy," "On Liberty," "Utilitarianism," "The Subjection of Women," "Three Essays on Religion" and his autobiography, which was written the year he died.

Mill was a controversial figure in 19th century Britain who advocated for the use of economic theory, philosophical thought and social awareness in political decision making. He used his writings and other publications to compare the legal status of women at the time to the legal status of slaves, to promote radical empiricism as a function of mathematics, and to pioneer the harm principle, an idea that political power should only be wielded over a member of an organization when that power is used to prevent harm to that member.

Upbringing, Ideology and Other Major Influences

Much of John Stuart Mill's beliefs, thoughts and influential works can be attributed to his upbringing and the ideology taught to him through his father, James Mill. His father became acquainted with the leading political theorist Jeremy Bentham in 1808, and together they started a political movement that embraced philosophical radicalism. It was during this time that John Stuart Mill was indoctrinated with the economic theory, political thinking and social beliefs that would shape his later work. This general ideology became known as Utilitarianism and was practiced by Mill in his earlier years.

It was actually this exact upbringing that gave him his foundation and also brought about his greatest breakthrough. Mill attributed a mental breakdown to the overbearing nature of his father and the radical system in which he was raised. The mental lapse forced him to re-examine theories he had previously accepted as true. Through this self-reflection, he began to make changes to Bentham's Utilitarian ideology to make it more positive, adopting the revised theory as his own system of belief.

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