Mill, James

Mill, James, 1773–1836, British philosopher, economist, and historian, b. Scotland; father of John Stuart Mill. Educated as a clergyman at Edinburgh through the patronage of Sir John Stuart, Mill gave up the ministry and went to London in 1802 to pursue a career writing for and editing periodicals. He met Jeremy Bentham c.1808 and became an ardent advocate of utilitarianism. On the strength of his History of British India (3 vol., 1817), on which he had worked for over 10 years, Mill secured a permanent position with the British East India Company. His other works include Elements of Political Economy (1821), Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (2 vol., 1829), and A Fragment on Mackintosh (1835), which contains the best exposition of his psychological and ethical theories. Mill furnished a psychological basis for utilitarian ethics by expanding the associationism of David Hume. According to Mill, association by contiguity, where ideas that occur frequently together form combinations, may be such a subtle process that the merging of ideas may occur without leaving any trace of the elements that went into their formulation. Derived conceptions may thus achieve autonomy of value quite apart from their obvious egoistic advantage. This is seen as the origin of altruistic motives, which are otherwise difficult to explain on utilitarian grounds, and also as the origin of conscience.

See W. H. Burston, James Mill on Philosophy and Education (1973); B. Mazlish, James and John Stuart Mill (1975, repr. 1988).

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