Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Mill on Utilitarianism

By Roger Crisp | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1

A teacher in an age of transition

Mill’s life

Utilitarianism is one of the most significant works in moral philosophy, ranking in importance alongside Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics and Immanuel Kant’s Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals. Its author was the greatest British philosopher of the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill.

John Stuart Mill’s father, James Mill (1773-1836), was also a philosopher. James came from a poor background in Scotland, but his mother was ambitious. Not only did she scorn the local porridge, but she changed the family name from the less distinguished ‘Milne’ and took care to cultivate the acquaintance of local dignitaries. James worked hard at school, and at 17, having been chosen as tutor to the daughter of Sir John Stuart, was sent to the University of Edinburgh. By 1798, James was qualified as a preacher, but his sermons were above the heads of most congregations and he failed to gain a

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