Some Recent Interpretations of John Stuart Mill
It is usual to interpret Mill’s understanding of liberty in terms deriving from his distinction in On Liberty between self-regarding and other-regarding conduct. Granted this distinction and Mill’s genuine concern to define and defend it, it remains a relevant question why he attached so much importance to it. This raises a less familiar theme in Mill, namely the inter-connection of self-regarding and other-regarding conduct. An uncommitted reading of the main texts suggests an equivalent value is attached to this. Mill clearly and constantly asserts a close connection between each person’s own attempt to improve himself, to cultivate his ‘affections and will’, and the social and political structure in which he acts. Self-regarding virtue and responsible social conduct are interdependent; the quality of each depends upon the quality of the other. A fuller recognition of this and its central place in Mill’s revision of Bentham may be of help in examining some of the particular problems raised by recent scholarship on Mill.
KeywordsCoherence Assure Expense Tral Defend
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