Bentham & John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was an English philosopher from the Utilitarian school of thought.  His mentor, Jeremy Bentham who was also his godfather, created Utilitarianism whose central motto was that society needs to be working towards "the greatest happiness for the greatest number" if it was to progress.  This of course places Utilitarianism in direct opposition to Nietzsche's elitist Master Morality based Ubermensch rule...and which is why Nietzsche dismisses them as mere 'English psychologists' in his Genealogy of Morals text. 

 

Bentham's method of ensuring the greatest happiness was through the use of cold, hard logic to assess costs and benefits - the Victorian workhouse is a classic Benthamite institution.  JSM however in his defence of Bentham's ideas in Utilitarianism and On Liberty, his two major works on the subject, was far more inclined to consider the humanity in any given situation. If Bentham's ideas are evident in the creation of Poor Laws and workhouses, Bentham's ideas are much more in evidence in Public Health reform, education provision and giving the vote to women.  His utilitarianism revolves around ensuring that individual voices are always heard in the face of society's Tyranny of the Majority, and that individuals are left alone to pursue their own life choices as long as they abide by the Harm Principle...both ideas which still have enormous relevance to our 21st century world and the digital revolution which is shaping it....

Access the two powerpoints on the right by clicking on the photo of JSM and his wife Harriet Taylor for an introduction to JSM and his ideas along with a critique of his key work On Liberty

The e-books On Liberty and Utilitarianism can be accessed below along with explanatory powerpoints covering the key chapters in both works...

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Professor Szelenyi, Yale, discusses Mill, the student of Bentham

(27:17 - Chapter 5. Mill in a Historical Context; 35:34 - Chapter 6. "Utilitarianism": Major Themes

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