- Paperback: 172 pages
- Publisher: Arc Manor (September 5, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1604503149
- ISBN-13: 978-1604503142
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,423,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill Paperback – September 5, 2008
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Mill went through three stages in his intellectual transformation.
I'll call the first stage "technocratic optimism". In his youth, Mill was a zealous reformer, driven not by his love of humanity nor his nobleness, but by his conviction that utilitarian methods were all what it was needed to change the world. He denounced the "sentimentality", the "vague generalities" and the "declamations" of his intellectual rivals, who didn't share his optimism and accused him of being "hard-hearted" and "anti-population".
The second stage can be called "matured skepticism". In his thirties and forties, after a bout of depression, Mill became less confident of his reasoning tools, more conscious of the complexities of social change, and more sensitive to individual suffering. He also became a more cautious reformer: "all questions of political institutions are relative, not absolute, and different stages of human progress not only will have, but ought to have, different institutions". Paradoxically his greater love for humanity made him a less zealous reformer.
But Mill didn't become a conservative. He became a radical and entered the third stage of his metamorphosis, "radical liberalism". He chose a few worthy causes to fight for (the equality of women, the political rights of minorities, and the need of land reform in Ireland, etc.) and tried to advance them with unusual patience and strong determination. He was conscious that "no great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitutions of their modes of thought". In his final years, he had the patience to do something about the modes of thought of his countrymen without expecting immediate results.
It is not easy to feel sympathetic about Mill. He doesn't have a sense of humor, and his earnestness is almost comical. But he is an honest and objective thinker. Besides, his intellectual transformation is a good example: I myself have already overcome stage one, and I am ready to leave stage two for stage three.
In conclusion, this book is recommended to people who are rather familiar with Mill's work and would like to expand their knowledge of Mill's education and how his thinking evolved during the years.
Considering this Penguin edition of this classic is one of the most expensive, this unacceptable.
I usually like Penguin for printed books but this electronic version is very poor.