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John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
October 1, 2008 11:20 AM   Subscribe

Right Again. The passions of John Stuart Mill (previously).
posted by homunculus (18 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
You read ALDaily too? High-five!
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:28 AM on October 1, 2008


J.S. Mill was pretty good, if you're into that sort of thing.
posted by oddman at 11:45 AM on October 1, 2008


Interesting essay - thanks for the post, homunculus. I wonder what Mill would have thought if he could have known that we're still fighting about much of this stuff over a century later.

*sigh*
posted by Quietgal at 11:55 AM on October 1, 2008


J.S. Mill was also something of a Georgist:

"The ordinary progress of a society which increases in wealth, is at all times tending to augment the incomes of landlords; to give them both a greater amount and a greater proportion of the wealth of the community, independently of any trouble or outlay incurred by themselves. They grow richer, as it were in their sleep, without working, risking, or economizing. What claim have they, on the general principle of social justice, to this accession of riches? In what would they have been wronged if society had, from the beginning, reserved the right of taxing the spontaneous increase of rent, to the highest amount required by financial exigencies?" -- John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), in Principles of Political Economy

I first detected something "was rotten in the state of Denmark" seeing how all the owners of shitty rental stock made out like badgeless banditos 1997-2002 here in the Bay Area, but since I didn't have anything but pure Cato.org capitalism and evil Ramparts marxism to frame any analysis of the situation with I was somewhat befuddled as to what the actual problem was & what the solution could be. It was surprising to find that this issue had been thoroughly debated 100+ years ago and then promptly memory-holed in the 1920s.
posted by troy at 11:58 AM on October 1, 2008


he would gradually strip off his clothes and work gravely at his stool without waistcoat or pants

Truly, a patron saint of the internet. Here's "You're a Good Man, John Stuart Mill", from the late, lamented comic book Action Philosophers!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:08 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


You read ALDaily too? High-five!

Not lately, sorry. No high-five for you.
posted by homunculus at 12:08 PM on October 1, 2008


The passions of Jon Stewart. (Possibly NSFW)
posted by Pollomacho at 12:10 PM on October 1, 2008


My hero!
John Stuart Mill and Jeremy Bentham('s head) . . . they fight crime!
posted by grobstein at 12:16 PM on October 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


John Stuart Mill has been my hero ever since I first read some of his stuff in college. Reading his writings in a philosophical survey course was like hearing a quiet voice of profound and unimposing reasonableness in a roomful of shouting crazy people straining to prove one another wrong.
posted by Tehanu at 12:18 PM on October 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


Reading his writings in a philosophical survey course was like hearing a quiet voice of profound and unimposing reasonableness in a roomful of shouting crazy people straining to prove one another wrong.

Sorry, could you speak up? I couldn't hear you over the MetaFilter.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:35 PM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


In the print issue, this article directly follows an article about Timbaland. So I'm reading along, all, "Timbaland Timbaland Timbaland," and I accidentally skip a page and continue reading, "Poetry saved him. He read the early romantics, Coleridge and Wordsworth in particular, and by the end of the decade was cured, or at least better. He began to see a new light. It couldn't change his affect: he remained a tight, mild, buttoned-down man." And I'm completely oblivious for a long moment, thinking, "Dang, I never knew this about Timbaland! Coleridge means a lot to me too!"
posted by Powerful Religious Baby at 12:41 PM on October 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


-Pollomacho: I moused over that link... and am ashamed that I didn't click on it because I know what rps is. Bitterly ashamed.
posted by bastionofsanity at 12:43 PM on October 1, 2008


And I'm completely oblivious for a long moment, thinking, "Dang, I never knew this about Timbaland! Coleridge means a lot to me too!"

I made a similar mistake a few years ago. The Ol' Dirty Bastard died two days after Yasser Arafat, but I was still taken by surprise when my brain connected the newspaper headline Rapper ODB Dead with the smaller article Arab World in Mourning.

I spent a good five minutes trying to mentally connect the dots between Islam and the Wu Tang Clan before I finally realized that something wasn't right.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 1:13 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I believe he got ill on a half pint of shandy, which he drank of his own volition.
posted by ooga_booga at 1:43 PM on October 1, 2008


“Nobody likes a know-it-all...”

This explains why I am so universally beloved. Damned if I know anything really.

“ ‘Truth, in the great practical concerns of life, is so much a question of the reconciling and combining of opposites,” he once wrote. “Even progress, which ought to superadd, for the most part only substitutes, one partial and incomplete truth for another.’”

I’d like a tatoo of this.

“But Mill really means it: take the argument for God’s existence seriously, and that’s where it leads you.”

Well - argument for God’s meaning, within a certain (judeo-christian anthropological) definition. Mill wasn’t big on Spinoza apparently (with the exception of the utilitarian defense of liberty). But Mill really meant it as criticism.
(“God is a word to express, not our ideas, but the want of them.” - John Stuart Mill)

“When Mill said that his rights were worthless unless everyone else had them, too, he really meant it.”

Perfectly true. And there’s still resistance. You try and tell people that. They just don’t want to hear about it.

I think the know-it-all becoming, perhaps not a fool for love, but at least a lover is a repeating theme in our great thinkers. There is always this leap of faith, a spiritual - specifically not religious or dogmatic - leap of faith in perhaps humanity or the endurance of certain ideas.
I mean - I argue against the Padilla thing on exactly the same basis. If his rights mean nothing, mine mean nothing. I’m no great thinker. So the idea obviously endures on its own.
But look at Socrates. I think Thomas Aquinas is the best example of this tho’. I mean - all that writing and in his last work he says pretty much “Ach, anything I can say about it really (God, et.al.) is wrong” and just puts his faith that this intangible thing, this intelligence - whatever the hell it is Mill and other great thinkers bestow upon us and work with and chew over themselves - will endure.

I think Gopnik is wrong is arguing Mill didn’t get the “the depths of violence and rage and hatred beneath the thin shell of civilization.”
Men have chosen, and will continue to choose not to kill - today. Killers we are. But today, we will not do evil. And we probably won’t tomorrow either.
Mill is absolutely right about this - most of the great positive evils of the world are in themselves removable. And they will be removed. Evil and irrationality are omnipresent, but sporadic and unreliable. They so fully occlude the truth when given rein they erode even one’s basic identity. They can’t be lived with. The truth can, and so endures.
Everything else is just teaching.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:57 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Evil and irrationality are omnipresent, but sporadic and unreliable. They so fully occlude the truth...(of our essence...sorry, existentialists)

Although I believe we humans are doomed, this is what fuels my optimistic existence (there ya go, existentalists!)...that our "basic identity" is occluded by evil. Not that I am "religious," but believing that mankind is not basically evil is a good way to get through the day.
posted by kozad at 3:41 PM on October 1, 2008


Thank you for the link. I rarely spend the time to wade through a six page article, but I'm glad I did. It's great that, these days when even two mono syllabic words are condensed to "blog", you can still find articles in the popular press with passages like:
"The mere cessation of existence is no evil to any one: the idea is only formidable through the illusion of imagination which makes one conceive oneself as if one were alive and feeling oneself dead. What is odious in death is not death itself, but the act of dying, and its lugubrious accompaniments"
posted by Popular Ethics at 5:17 PM on October 1, 2008


JSM was my hero before reading this, but he is even moreso my hero now that I know he sometimes wrote without wearing pants.
posted by Nattie at 5:34 PM on October 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


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