John Stuart Mill's Platonic Heritage: Happiness through Character

John Stuart Mill's Platonic Heritage: Happiness through Character

by Antis Loizides


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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 members.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739173930
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 04/16/2013
Pages: 274
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

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).

Table of Contents


Part I: Classical Reception in Nineteenth-Century Britain

Chapter One: Reform through Classics
Contesting the Place of Classics
Athenian Institutions and Reform
Concluding Remarks

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

Chapter Three: James Mill on Plato
Radicalising Plato
James Mill’s ‘Platonism’
Concluding Remarks

Part II: John Stuart Mill’s Appropriation of Plato

Chapter Four: Educative Past
Reforming Educational Practice
Reforming Social Institutions
Reforming Political Practice
Concluding Remarks

Chapter Five: Reading Plato
Mill’s First Reading: Defining Plato’s Creed
Mill’s Second Reading: Grote’s Plato
Concluding Remarks
Chapter Six: On Plato’s Method
Mill’s Intellectual Development and Plato
Mill’s Dialectical Method
Concluding Remarks

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

Chapter Eight: Character, Ethology and Virtue
Defining Character
Means and Ends of Character Formation
Concluding Remarks

Chapter Nine: Eudaimonia and Utility
Utility or Eudaimonia?
Additive and Directive Views of Happiness
Direction, Pleasure and Lives
Concluding Remarks


What People are Saying About This

Alan Ryan

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.

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