•  850
    My aim in this chapter is to place John Stuart Mill’s distinctive utilitarian political philosophy in the context of the debate about luck, responsibility, and equality. I hope it will reveal the extent to which his utilitarianism provides a helpful framework for synthesizing the competing claims of luck and relational egalitarianism. I attempt to show that when Mill’s distributive justice commitments are not decided by direct appeal to overall happiness, they are guided by three main public pri…Read more
  •  837
    My aim in this chapter is to push back against the tendency to emphasize Mill’s break from Bentham rather than his debt to him. Mill made important advances on Bentham’s views, but I believe there remains a shared core to their thinking—over and above their commitment to the principle of utility itself—that has been underappreciated. Essentially, I believe that the structure of Mill’s utilitarian thought owes a great debt to Bentham even if he filled in that structure with a richer conception of…Read more
  •  294
    “Harm” and Mill’s Harm Principle
    Ethics 124 (2): 299-326. 2014.
    This article addresses the long-standing problem of how to understand Mill’s famous harm principle in light of his failure to specify what counts as “harm” in On Liberty. I argue that standard accounts restricting “harm” to only certain negative consequences fail to do justice to the text, and that this fact forces us to rethink Mill’s defense of individual liberty. I then offer a new account of that defense in which “harm” is understood in an expansive sense, despite apparent problems for such …Read more
  •  203
    Joseph Persky's excellent book, The Political Economy of Progress: John Stuart Mill and Modern Radicalism, shows that J. S. Mill's support for socialism is a carefully considered element of his political and economic reform agenda. The key thought underlying Persky's argument is that Mill has an ‘evolutionary theory of justice’, according to which the set of institutions and practices that are appropriate to one state of society should give way to a new set of institutions as circumstances chang…Read more
  •  180
    More Democracy Is Not Better Democracy: Cain's Case for Reform Pluralism
    Election Law Journal 13 (4): 520-525. 2014.
    This article is part of a symposium on Bruce Cain's "Democracy More or Less: America’s Political Reform Quandary." It identifies the basic normative framework of Cain's skeptical "reform pluralism" as a form of democratic instrumentalism rather than political realism, and then argues that a more optimistic instrumentalist alternative is available. The instrumentalist can accept that more democracy need not entail better democracy. But the instrumentalist account of better democracy also gives us…Read more
  •  165
    Social Morality in Mill
    In Gerald Gaus & Piers Turner (eds.), Public Reason in Political Philosophy: Classic Sources and Contemporary Commentaries, Routledge. pp. 375-400. 2017.
    A leading classical utilitarian, John Stuart Mill is an unlikely contributor to the public reason tradition in political philosophy. To hold that social rules or political institutions are justified by their contribution to overall happiness is to deny that they are justified by their being the object of consensus or convergence among all those holding qualified moral or political viewpoints. In this chapter, I explore the surprising ways in which Mill nevertheless works to accommodate the probl…Read more
  •  110
    The Arguments of On Liberty: Mill's Institutional Designs
    Nineteenth-Century Prose 47 (1): 121-156. 2020.
    This paper addresses the question of whether all that unites the main parts of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty—the liberty principle, the defense of free discussion, the promotion of individuality, and the claims concerning individual competence about one’s own good—is a general concern with individual liberty, or whether we can say something more concrete about how they are related. I attempt to show that the arguments of On Liberty exemplify Mill’s institutional design approach set out in Consid…Read more
  •  80
    Mill, John Stuart
    In Stewart Goetz & Charles Taliaferro (eds.), Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion, . forthcoming.
    This draft entry is an overview of John Stuart Mill's moral and political philosophy, with an emphasis on his views on religion, for the Encyclopedia of the Philosophy of Religion (Wiley-Blackwell).
  •  65
    Authority, Progress, and the “Assumption of Infallibility” in On Liberty
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 51 (1): 93-117. 2013.
    John Stuart Mill’s defense of free discussion in On Liberty includes the claim that silencing discussion implies an “assumption of infallibility.” This claim is often dismissed as absurd on the ground that a censor might attempt to silence an opinion he believes to be true but pernicious, or because rational assurance short of infallibility is obviously sufficient to justify censorship. This paper argues that Mill is concerned about the epistemic position one assumes with regard to future person…Read more
  •  64
    The absolutism problem in On Liberty
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (3): 322-340. 2013.
    Mill argues that, apart from the principle of utility, his utilitarianism is incompatible with absolutes. Yet in On Liberty he introduces an exceptionless anti-paternalism principle—his liberty principle. In this paper I address ‘the absolutism problem,’ that is, whether Mill's utilitarianism can accommodate an exceptionless principle. Mill's absolute claim is not a mere bit of rhetoric. But the four main solutions to the absolutism problem are also not supported by the relevant texts. I defend …Read more
  •  60
    Mill and the Liberal Rejection of Legal Moralism
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 32 (1): 79-99. 2015.
    This article examines John Stuart Mill's position as the principal historical opponent of legal moralism. I argue that inattention to the particular form of his opposition to legal moralism has muddied the interpretation of his liberty principle. Specifically, Mill does not endorse what I call the illegitimacy thesis, according to which appeals to harmless wrongdoings, whether or not they exist, are illegitimate in the justification of legal interference.
  •  51
    Punishment and Discretion in Mill's Utilitarianism
    Utilitas 27 (2): 165-178. 2015.
    I argue that a notorious passage from Utilitarianism concerning the relationship between morality and blameworthiness need not be an obstacle to a consistent act-utilitarian interpretation of Mill's moral theory. First, the Art of Life provides a framework for reconciling Mill's evaluation of conduct in terms of both expediency and blameworthiness. Like contemporary sophisticated act-utilitarians, Mill treats expediency as the more fundamental category of evaluation. Second, textual evidence sug…Read more
  •  47
    Rules and Right in Mill
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 53 (4): 723-745. 2015.
    Recent scholarship on John Stuart Mill’s moral theory has settled on the view that he is committed to a form of rule utilitarianism. I argue that this consensus is mistaken. Mill’s explicit account of practical rules is incompatible with rule utilitarianism but consistent with sophisticated act utilitarianism. I also examine the direct, textual evidence cited by rule utilitarian interpreters, arguing that it is consistent with the act utilitarian account of practical rules. Finally, I argue that…Read more
  •  38
    From its inception in 1890, the journal Ethics declared that it was “Devoted to the Advancement of Ethical Knowledge and Practice.” Although the latter concern may seem anachronistic, the extensive practical work of the Journal’s founders was inspired by an aim shared by many of today’s liberals: establishing a public morality that respects well-intentioned individuals holding a diversity of philosophical and religious commitments. Felix Adler, the guiding force behind the journal and the founde…Read more
  •  34
    In this long-awaited volume, Jeremy Shearmur and Piers Norris Turner bring to light Popper's most important unpublished and uncollected writings from the time of The Open Society until his death in 1994. After The Open Society: Selected Social and Political Writings reveals the development of Popper's political and philosophical thought during and after the Second World War, from his early socialism through to the radical humanitarianism of The Open Society. The papers in this collection, many o…Read more
  •  17
    When people of good faith and sound mind disagree deeply about moral, religious, and other philosophical matters, how can we justify political institutions to all of them? The idea of public reason―of a shared public standard, despite disagreement―arose in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the work of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant. At a time when John Rawls’ influential theory of public reason has come under fire but its core idea remains attractive to many, it is important not to …Read more
  •  14
    Introduction: Updating Mill on Free Speech
    Utilitas 33 (2): 125-132. 2021.
    John Stuart Mill's defense of freedom of discussion in On Liberty remains a major influence on philosophical and public debates about free speech. By highlighting underappreciated textual evidence and key distinctions, this introduction attempts to show how the contributions of the symposium authors – Melina Constantine Bell, Rafael Cejudo, Christopher Macleod, and Dale E. Miller – point toward a more complete account of Mill's views.
  •  4
    Joseph Persky's excellent book, The Political Economy of Progress: John Stuart Mill and Modern Radicalism, shows that J. S. Mill's support for socialism is a carefully considered element of his political and economic reform agenda. The key thought underlying Persky's argument is that Mill has an ‘evolutionary theory of justice’, according to which the set of institutions and practices that are appropriate to one state of society should give way to a new set of institutions as circumstances chang…Read more
  •  2
    When people of good faith and sound mind disagree deeply about moral, religious, and other philosophical matters, how can we justify political institutions to all of them? The idea of public reason—of a shared public standard, despite disagreement—arose in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the work of Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Kant. At a time when John Rawls’ influential theory of public reason has come under fire but its core idea remains attractive to many, it is important not to …Read more