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John Stuart Mill
 
Researched and written by: Danny Moore
 
I attest that the following biography is a product of my own original work.

Biography
 
        John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), 19th century British philosopher, is among one of the most prominent and influential thinkers of our time. Though known more widely for his logical, moral, political, and economic theories, he was a major contributor to the defense of empiricism and the science of psychology as well.
        John Stuart Mill was born on May 20, 1806 in a suburb of London. He was the eldest son of philosopher James Mill. His father James was a firm believer in the mechanistic perspective, the view that humans are like machines. This view led him to believe that the mind as well is nothing more than a machine. Therefore James believed that at birth the mind was like a blank slate for experience to write. All knowledge then becomes a result of experience. James extended these views to the upbringing of his son John. He believed that in determining the experiences his son would take he could mold him into some kind of super intelligent machine. Therefore, shortly after birth he began drilling his son with a massive amount of strict private tutoring. This would be the only way young Mill was ever taught. All of his education came from his father and his fatherís friends. Through his fathers rigorous system Mill was able to read Greek by age 3 and Latin by age 8. By the time he was 14 he had already mastered most of the classics of several languages. In addition, he was well educated in history, logic, mathematics, and economic theory. 
        Though his fatherís system was fairly controversial, Mill was developing into a very intelligent child. However, there was one problem that concerned many, as well as John Stuart Mill himself. Though his intellectual development was far superior to that of any other child his age, his personal and emotional development was highly neglected. His father restricted him from associating with other boys. Thus all of his development as a child was forced and programmed into him making it difficult for him to develop naturally and experience what most kids his age experienced.
        After his early years and at about age 15 Mill began studying with Jeremy Bentham, a friend of his father James Mill who together founded the utilitarian school of philosophy. Bentham was a strong influence on young Millís thought. It was in reading Bentham that he believed gave order to his previously tangled thoughts. Soon afterwards Mill and a few friends formed a Utilitarian Society embracing the political and philosophical views of his father James. When came time for Mill to begin working he took up a job with his father at the East India Company. He eventually took over his fatherís position as Chief Examiner and held that position until the company disbanded in 1858.
        At the age of 21 Mill suffered from a severe depression and experienced a mental crisis. He believed this to be the result of the severe physical and mental stress his fatherís rigid system exerted upon him during his younger years. He described his crisis as a loss or dullness of life. Everything had lost its charm. Everything he had worked for and all of his accomplishments were no longer worthwhile. It was if his life had lost meaning. He had nothing left to live for. This crisis lasted several years before he began to regain a sense of meaning in his life. He also began to stray away from his traditional teachings and utilitarian mode of thought insisted upon him by his father and Jeremy Bentham. 
        His recovery from life may have been associated with a close relationship beginning in 1830 he maintained with Harriet Taylor, a married woman who became a significant factor in his life. Although Mrs. Taylor husband was surprisingly tolerant of their relationship, Millís father was not. Regardless they remained close until 1851, two years after the death of Mr. Taylor, when John and Harriet were married. Mill believes that Harriet was a major influence and inspiration to his life and development. During these years his work began to increase and expand dramatically. His wife actually co-authored with him on some pieces. He also began to embrace poetry in which his father had previously restricted him from. In 1858 however Harriet passed away. Mill was extremely heart broken as a result. She was buried in Avignon were he proceeded to build a cottage in which he could view upon her grave. It was there that he spent a great deal of the rest of his life. 
        In 1865 Mill was elected to the House of Commons. He continued to serve here before failing to be re-elected in 1868. His performance was, however, well noted. During his time he emphasized three major things including the interest of the working classes, women suffrage, and land reform in Ireland. He continued to work after this and eventually became tied in with Helen Taylor, daughter of Harriet Taylor, as close friends and who became another important aspect of his life. After Millís death in 1873 Helen continued to release and publish many of his important works. Mill was buried next to his wife Harriet in Avignon. 
        In his earlier years Mill contributed numerous articles, reviews, and essays appearing in several publications. The two articles on Bentham and Coleridge, published between 1838 and 1840, began to show a more matured and independent thinking Mill. These articles are believed to be crucial in understanding Millís mode of thought. It was this way of thinking that did not change much the remainder of his career.
        Millís first great accomplishment in philosophy came with his release of System of Logic (1843). This was one of the few systematic approaches to logic of his time and his only systematic treatise in philosophy. After first establishing his terminology and propositions, as well as the deductive reasoning of the syllogism, he then set the book aside for several years before picking it up again in order to focus on the inductive process. His analysis of the method of induction is what he is most credited for in this work.
        Many of the ideas in Millís System of Logic (1843) can be applied directly to scientific methodology. It is for these reasons that Mill is recognized as an important figure in the history of psychology. Millís logic clearly supports empiricism and the idea that every event has a cause, or underlying law, that is available for us to discover. He believes all knowledge comes from experience, rejecting the existence of innate ideas, that is knowledge that exists prior to experience. Therefore Mill supports the notion that we are born with a blank slate in which experience will write. 
        It is Millís analysis of induction that he believes is the basis of the scientific method. He believes it is induction that can allow us to more accurately infer any kind of knowledge from the sample to the population. He states that although this method does not result in absolute certainty it does not follow that it is irrational or unjustified. In addition, he believes that it is induction, and not deduction, that can lead us to the discovery of new truths. 
        Another significant contribution to philosophy and empirical thought came with Millís Examinations of Sir William Hamiltonís Philosophy (1865). This work goes along the same lines as his System of Logic (1843). Mill adds to this work an account of perception. He states that the external world is full of what he refers to as a permanent possibility of sensation. He believes that there are things that exist unperceived, such as the inside of an orange, and upon discovery lead us to form expectations. Our experiences and expectations are what lead us to associate certain ideas. Therefore, when we again view an orange we not only perceive what is immediately available, but associate what we have previously experienced with it as well. Association is a big part of Millís psychology. 
        Mill focuses again on the idea of association while reprinting his fatherís work known as Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1829). When Mill reprinted this in 1869 he revised and corrected some of his fatherís ideas. Mill states that when one impression or idea is accompanied by another an association is formed. These associations create the habit of expectation and causal inference. Thus Mill seems to view the mind as somewhat passive. 
        In addition to his analysis of associationism Mill also included the idea of mental chemistry, or how it is known now, creative synthesis. Mill rejects the view, which was held by his father, that complex ideas are simply a summation of its simpler parts. Mill however believes that there is more to it than that. He states that complex ideas usually take on a whole new form which is greater than the simple combination of its simpler parts. In addition, complex ideas may contain properties not originally found in the simpler components. A classic example of this notion is the mixing of blue, red, and green light. When combined the outcome is white light, a result not expected and possessing original qualities not present before hand.
        Mill also contributed greatly to other areas of philosophy not strictly dealing with psychology or scientific methodology. This includes work concerning moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, and his essays on religion. Among his noted works concerning these topics are Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy (1844), The Principles of Political Economy (1848), Thoughts on Parliamentary Reform (1859), Considerations on Representative Government (1860), Essays on Religion (1874), and his more well known works On Liberty (1859), On the Subjection of Women (1869), and Utilitarianism, first appearing in 1861 then more widely published in 1863. These works all have their importance and significance and follow his previous methods of thought and reasoning previously discussed, though applying them to different issues such as economics and morality. 
        Although Mill never published anything dealing strictly with psychology, his works included many ideas that would be of importance to psychology and more specifically the methodology of science and empiricism. His System of Logic (1843) and reprinting of his fatherís Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1869), as discussed above, contain many crucial ideas to psychology and science as a whole. Many of these ideas remain significant today and in their own time were crucial in the development of psychology as an empirical science. Thus Mill remains an important figure in the history of psychology.

References
 
        Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2001). John Stuart Mill. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy [On-line], available at: http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/.
        Schultz, D. P., & Schultz, S. E. (Eds.). (2000). A History of Modern Psychology (7th ed.). Philadelphia: Harcourt College Publishers.
        Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (2001). John Stuart Mill. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [On-line], available at: http://plato.stanford.edu/.

 

 

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