John Stuart Mill's Platonic Heritage

John Stuart Mill's Platonic Heritage : Happiness Through Character

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In the early draft of his Autobiography (London, 1873), John Stuart Mill described himself as "a pupil of Plato, and cast in the mould of his dialectics." However, how Plato's influence came about, to what extent, and with regard to which aspects of Mill's thought, form questions that do not usually preoccupy Mill scholarship. To fill this gap in critical attention, this book draws upon a variety of primary sources to pay particular attention to Mill's concern with reform, method, character, virtue, and happiness through his reading of the ancient Greeks-particularly Plato. At the same time, this book focuses on the intellectual relationship between father and son, studying their responses to the prevalent trends as to the worth of classical studies and of Platonic philosophy in nineteenth-century Britain. Not only does John Stuart Mill's "intoxication" with ancient Greece manifest itself in all those aspects of his works already mentioned; but-what is most important-it also permeates his unvarying aim: the improvement of mankind through the improvement of its individual more

Product details

  • Hardback | 274 pages
  • 156 x 230 x 26mm | 559.99g
  • Lexington Books
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739173936
  • 9780739173930
  • 1,533,972

Review quote

Everyone knows that John Stuart Mill began to learn Greek at the age of three. Very few have a clear idea of what Mill permanently incorporated into his mature thinking about ethics, politics, and individual happiness from his youthful and subsequent encounters with Greek philosophy, and with Plato above all. Antis Loizides' book casts a wholly novel light on familiar issues, such as the way in which the younger Mill half-accepted and half-rejected his father's ideas, and in doing so, forces us to reconsider his father's utilitarianism as well as his own. The list of topics that Antis Loizides illuminates by carefully retracing Mill's engagement with Plato is very long indeed; among them, Mill's concern to develop an 'art of life' that would do justice to the noble and the beautiful in conduct, to kalon, and his careful balancing of representative democracy's need for citizens with the critical skills of a Socrates on the one hand and its need for dispassionate Platonic expertise on the other. Finally, Mill's concern with character and self-development, which is all too easy to see as a gift from Thomas Carlyle, turns out to have deep roots in Plato, as does the thought, central to On Liberty, that the happiness of a fully-developed human being exists in their capacity for rational self-direction. This is a deeply engrossing book. -- Alan Ryan, professor of politics, Princeton University Antis Loizides has produced an enlightening study of ancient Greek intellectual influences on James Mill and his son John Stuart. He makes a convincing case that Plato's ideas in particular, especially his Socratic method of dialectic, as much as Bentham's ideas, helped to shape not only James's classical utilitarian philosophy but also John's enlarged utilitarian 'art of life', though both Mills agreed with George Grote in rejecting Plato's metaphysical idealism, mysticism and distaste for democracy. The study is full of important insights and sheds light on many aspects of John's unusual utilitarianism. For instance, Loizides calls attention to James's suggestive remarks about higher pleasures, including the remark that mental pleasures include bodily sensations of pleasure or at least their traces in memory or imagination as ingredients. To take another example, he also demonstrates through numerous quotations that John rejects the internalist doctrine, shared by idealists such as Plato and Kant, that knowledge of virtue is sufficient to motivate us to act virtuously, a doctrine incorrectly attributed to Mill by modern utilitarians such as R.M. Hare. Loizides concludes his study with an interesting discussion in which he compares Mill's hedonistic conception of happiness with the Greek idea of eudaimonia. He speculates that, for Mill, a noble and virtuous life is also the most pleasant life. But he also suggests at times that rational deliberation is what ultimately directs an individual to develop a noble and virtuous character, and that feelings of pleasure merely accompany rather than motivate noble and virtuous activities. In my view, that suggestion is incompatible with Mill's hedonism and his rather Humean claim that feeling, not reason, is the ultimate spring of human action. -- Jonathan Riley, professor of philosophy, Tulane Universityshow more

About Antis Loizides

Antis Loizides teaches at the Department of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Cyprus. In 2010, he was awarded a research grant by the Research Promotion Foundation of Cyprus to carry out research on Plato's influence on John Stuart Mill. His research interests include British utilitarianism, the moral and political thought of John Stuart Mill and James Mill, social contract theories, social happiness, justice, and liberty. He is co-editor of John Stuart Mill: A British Socrates (2013).show more

Table of contents

Abbreviations Preface Acknowledgments Introduction Part I: Classical Reception in Nineteenth-Century Britain Chapter One: Reform through Classics Contesting the Place of Classics Athenian Institutions and Reform Concluding Remarks Notes Chapter Two: Plato in Pre-Victorian Britain Rediscovering Plato A Neoplatonist Born Out of Due Season Socrates in Early-Nineteenth Century Socrates, Plato and the Utilitarians Concluding Remarks Notes Chapter Three: James Mill on Plato Radicalising Plato James Mill's 'Platonism' Concluding Remarks Notes Part II: John Stuart Mill's Appropriation of Plato Chapter Four: Educative Past Reforming Educational Practice Reforming Social Institutions Reforming Political Practice Concluding Remarks Notes Chapter Five: Reading Plato Mill's First Reading: Defining Plato's Creed Mill's Second Reading: Grote's Plato Concluding Remarks Notes Chapter Six: On Plato's Method Mill's Intellectual Development and Plato Mill's Dialectical Method Concluding Remarks Notes Part III: John Stuart Mill's Platonic Heritage Chapter Seven: The Art of Life Reason and Action Mill and the Art of Life An Education for the Art of Life Concluding Remarks Notes Chapter Eight: Character, Ethology and Virtue Defining Character Means and Ends of Character Formation Concluding Remarks Notes Chapter Nine: Eudaimonia and Utility Utility or Eudaimonia? Additive and Directive Views of Happiness Direction, Pleasure and Lives Concluding Remarks Notes Conclusion Bibliography Indexshow more