James Mill

James Mill ( born April 6, 1773 in North Water Bridge, parish of Logie Pert, Forfarshire / Angus, Scotland, south Aberdeen, † June 23 1836 in Kensington ) was a Scottish- British theologian, historian, philosopher, educationist, penal reformer and economist. Together with Jeremy Bentham, he was a proponent of utilitarianism, an especially represented in England conceptual direction which provided the benefits for individuals and society at the center of their philosophical, political and economic considerations. His eldest son is the famous utilitarian economist and philosopher John Stuart Mill


Background, education

As the eldest son of a shoemaker and small peasants M., sponsored dedicated by his ambitious mother, quite the learning; his real Scottish name " Milne " they walked in the in English ears better sounding " Mill " from. With a grant from the Presbyterian Church, he accompanied a local nobleman as a private tutor for her daughter to Edinburgh, where he enrolled at the university in 1790; the Scottish universities - in addition to Edinburgh and Glasgow and Aberdeen and St. Andrews - were regarded as exemplary in the sense of enlightenment, M. was, in the words of his son, " the last survivor of this great school." His love for his noble pupil, who was returned violently, failed at his stand: 1797 married the intimate lover a noble and died shortly afterwards in childbed, with Ms name on the lips. Home teaching jobs in other noble families could feel uncomfortably again its descent it. After the end of his theological studies (1798 ), he worked as a Presbyterian preacher, was then but - disillusioned and without true faith - Teachers and devoted himself to historical and philosophical studies.

Scripture Generic and political activity

In 1802 he went to London and became a contributor to several journals (Anti - Jacobin Review, the British Review, Eclectic Review, Edinburgh Review, Westminster Review, 1806-1818 ). In 1804 he wrote a pamphlet on the grain trade, in which he expressed himself in the sense of free-traders for the abolition of export duties, and began in 1806 to work on his "History of British India " (3 vols, 1817/18 ). His articles on political, legal and educational issues (including the article " Government" ) in the 4th - 6th Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica influenced public opinion in the 1820s and resulted in significantly in their approach to democratic reform bill of the year 1832.

1807 or 1808 met M. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, whose teaching he devoted himself and for which he joined in the public opposition to the incipient tendencies of the Romantic school. Both worked for religious tolerance and a reform of the law, freedom of speech and press and feared a collapse of the British parliamentary system to its own shortcomings. Unlike the rich bachelor Bentham M. had with his ever-growing family but be careful in hard work on practical results: therefore his writings were distinguished by clarity and direct effect.

At the same time M. had for the establishment of Lancasterschulen which provided for mutual teaching students, and was a founder of the University of London (University College, 1825).

It is debatable how much of Mill in the development of Say's theorem in its known today shape ( "Every supply creates its own demand itself ").

Employment with the East India Company

His History of British India (1817 /18) was received with general applause, and even though they exposed the abuses of the Indian administration relentlessly, received their author but in the year 1819 by the East India Company a lucrative post in the East India Company, first as Assistant Examiner of Correspondence, finally as head of the Audit Committee at the India House in London (1830 ), which dismissed him from the constant worry about his livelihood and dependence on patrons (eg Bentham ). His 17- year-long activity in the Committee modified the system according to which India was governed, complete; his utilitarian- rationalist view of this subcontinent made ​​the country, however, appear in a little advantageous light.

Political and educational ideas

M. was regarded as the mouthpiece of the English " radicals ," a liberal by today's political-philosophical group, which started the thoughts of David Ricardo, with whom he was friends, and his compatriot Adam Smith in the economic field. Mill wrote next to the History of British India still Elements of Political Economy (London, 1821, new edition 1846) and a number of philosophical works, including Analysis of the Phenomena of the Human Mind (1829; New ed, with notes by John Stuart Mill, 1869; 2nd edition 1878, 2 vols ), in which he applied utilitarianism on psychology. He thereby took ideas of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment on - Human rights, equality before the law, universal suffrage - but added to them elements of the British political practice - government control, protection of property - added. His utilitarian belief that people would guided primarily by self-interest, led him to the conclusion that a good government of the congruence of interests of the governed with the rulers depended significantly ( Essay on Government, 1828).

Ms educational sessions were characterized by the belief in the Verbesserbarkeit of the people through education; in his optimism the early socialists Robert Owen and Saint -Simon similarly, he held the mankind for a long time not yet reached the height of its possibilities, even the practical circumstances concerned. His feeling hostile rationalism made ​​him the declared opponents of the Romantics and prevented him from seeing the other facets of the human character.

Family relationships

M. married in 1805 Harriet Mill, with whom he had nine children, including John Stuart Mill as an Elder of. The marriage turned out later to be increasingly difficult.


  • "Mr. Mill was eloquent, and in conversation he impressed. He was a language that bore the stamp of his serious, powerful nature. Especially young men sought his company ... No one could escape his society without some having taken his noble enthusiasm ... The conversation with him was so determined and mentally so complete, so almost exactly in the expression ... and that his conversation as expressed thoughts and observations, one would have recorded it, would have been masterpieces "; John Black, eds of the Morning Chronicle, 1836, cit. according to Bain, S.457.


  • John Stuart Mill ( * 1806), the eldest son, was educated by his father with extraordinary rigor and diligence; his siblings, he had to revise the material in the same way - this was the method of Lancasterschule - teach; In his autobiography, he draws a sobering characteristics of the father: "I grew up without love to, instead, in constant fear."
  • So winning and affable Mill could be talking, so dry and didactic worked his writings; his Scottish contemporary, the politician and social reformer Thomas Babington Macaulay (1800-1859) accused him and his utilitarian fellow in his famous critique - "a famous attack" ( as John Stuart Mill ) - " a quäkerhaften platitude, or rather a cynical disregard and impurity of style ". Their apparent intelligibility is based primarily on tautologies ( " people act only out of self-interest " ), syllogisms and metaphors. Practice and intuition taught more than the entire theory, even if they 'll still be carried forward so compelling, logical and convincing. Mills deductive logic fail, and with it his whole intellectual edifice.
  • Schumpeter called Mills ' History of British India " " monumental and groundbreaking, in fact, "while the Essay on Government only as" could be called full bullshit ".
  • Mill has the Indian subcontinent, whose story he described in three volumes, unlike his adversary Macaulay, who worked for the company in Calcutta, never met nor spoke or wrote one of the national languages. His ignorance, however, he stopped in the preface to his work not only for excusable ( " Tacitus was never in Germania ", Vol.1, s.XXI ), but calling it a bold counter-attack even as evidence of his objectivity: "Is not it so that a judge who has never seen the details of an act in person, in the course of his inquiry receives a more balanced picture than any one of those to whom he owes his information? " ( ibid, S.xxvi ).