Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mill believed in fierce debate to ensure that opinions were not held “only by accident” but with “a complete conviction”

Gordon Brown is a prime minister who is said to have reflected on the nature of liberty, but you cannot expect to be taken seriously if your commitment to John Stuart Mill is always going to be trumped by your instinct for Machiavellian cunning.
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Books Accidental hero David Marquand New Statesman 06 December 2007 4 comments
For 150 years, John Stuart Mill has been the intellectual icon of the British left - but his ideas address few of the problems we face today.
John Stuart Mill has been an iconic figure for British liberals and social democrats for more than 150 years. In his important new biography, Richard Reeves suggests that he has even more to say to the ideology-lite 21st century than he did during the great contest between capitalism and socialism that dominated most of the second half of the 20th, and there is something in it. Mill was one of the great masters whom Gordon Brown celebrated in his speech on British liberty a few weeks ago, and the literature on Mill continues to grow. In the past 25 years, we have had Alan Ryan on Mill, John Gray, John Skorupski, Bernard Semmel, Stefan Collini and Gertrude Himmelfarb, as well as a host of others.
Part of the reason is that he was an extraordinarily nice, warm-hearted and intellectually generous man, as well as an extraordinarily gifted one. It is impossible to dislike him. His exemplary life - a paradigm of high Victorian earnestness at its best - still compels affection as well as admiration.
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John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand by Richard Reeves
This biography dispassionately presents the richness and contradictoriness of Mill’s theories. Reviewed by Jane O'Grady From The Sunday Times December 9, 2007
The “most open-minded man in England”, Gladstone called him. John Stuart Mill, like Shakespeare and Dr Johnson, is someone we like to hold up as the essence of Englishness. Since his death in 1873, much of his philosophy and economics has been absorbed or superseded, but On Liberty and The Subjection of Women, those two cornerstones of liberal thought, seem more resonant and provocative than ever. Whether the nation is fretting about cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the wearing of the hijab or the rights of consenting adults to hammer nails through their genitalia – in short, wherever individual freedom is definedor defended – Mill is sure to be claimed by one side or another. During the debate on the ban on smoking in public places, Mill’s famous harm principle (“The only purpose for which power can rightfully be exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others”) was cited by both camps. He would surely have been delighted...
Mill believed in fierce debate to ensure that opinions were not held “only by accident” but with “a complete conviction” — not out of regard for self-fulfilment per se, or diversity of opinion, but because opposing doctrines could contain “half-truths”. For Mill, says Reeves, “the truth was real and solid — it was just that under typical circumstances, different individuals or factions captured a portion of it”.
He tried to reconcile Romanticism with the Enlightenment, socialism with liberalism, fairness with elitism. Impossible projects, but, in a lucid, balanced, understated way, Reeves shows us how brilliantly they fail.

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