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John Stuart Mill: A Biography Hardcover – January 12, 2004

3 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521620246 ISBN-10: 0521620244 Edition: y First edition

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From Publishers Weekly

While he is considered to be the greatest English intellectual of the 19th century, Mill (1806–1873) is often reduced to a set of parochial engagements with his "utilitarianism." In this authoritatively comprehensive analysis of Mill’s lifelong explication of the "liberal culture" spawned by the Industrial Revolution, Loyola professor of business ethics Capaldi presents a probing account of the personal, social and environmental influences on Mill and his relationship to major intellectual precursors and contemporaries. Interspersed with a series of close readings of his mostly political essays and reviews, Mill’s life is cast from a diverse quilt of perspectives, including schoolfriends Coleridge and Carlyle, which reveal the pluralistic character Victorian England. From his struggles with his father, James Mill, and the Benthamite Philosophical Radicals that saw him as their progeny, to his relationship with his wife Harriet Taylor (in "the most talked about affair of the 19th Century"), Mill’s immense intellectual influence is situated within the social relationships that provide a revealing depth to his views on education, politics and feminism. Perhaps the most important element of this work is its presentation of Mill’s uniquely organic synthesis of British ratiocination with German Romanticism that represented a nexus of Mill’s educational heritage and his mature encounters with Continental thinkers, such as Kant and Hegel, Comte and Tocqueville. Capaldi’s liberal use of primary texts and vigilant concern for intellectual context reveal Mill’s thought as reflective of the overall Enlightenment turn towards integrating science, logic and metaphysics into politically oriented theories aimed at creating social equality. Capaldi’s sensitivity to intellectual cross-currents breathes new life into Mill, for whom there is no other biography currently in print, and gives an outstanding account of 19th century European social-philosophical thought.
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"A very welcome new intellectual life of Mill, which gives full weight not just to his philosophical and technical writing but also to his status as a public intellectual. The highly readable biography is particularly illuminating about Mill's status within nineteenth-century theories of the place of the creative artist and the imagination, and it gives extended and thoughtful treatment to his intellectual and personal relationship with Harriet Taylor." Kate Flint, Studies in English Literature

"...solidly grounded, briskly argued...a considerable achievement. Nicholas Capaldi is a deft commentator. John Stuart Mill is a good and persuasive book." Alan Ryan

"As a work of biography, it succeeds in forcefully presenting Mill as a theorist concerned above all with defending liberal culture in general, and highlights the absolute centrality of individual autonomy to that defense." Metapsychology Online

"Capaldi has succeeded nicely in bringing together Mill's life and Mill's ideas - his theories and his values - , illuminating both. This study is recommended for anyone with an interest in the man and his thought." Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Mill scholars and students of 19th-century thought and English Romanticism will find this biography engrossing." The New York Sun

"It is solidly grounded, briskly argued, and agreeably free from the sound of grinding axes." New York Review of Books

"Capaldi's intellectual biography passes, with flying colors, the important test for the success of a biography: after reading it, I have both a sense of having learned a great deal and a desire to learn more about the part of history that both influenced and was influenced by John Stuart Mill."
P.A. Woodward, The Review of Metaphysics
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 456 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; y First edition edition (January 12, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521620244
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521620246
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,644,349 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Eudaimonia on June 7, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Contemporary analytic philosophers tend to present a rather skewed view of Mill, ignoring the larger textual and personal context of his work. Capaldi's book goes a long way to correcting these errors.

For instance, Capaldi provides strong reasons to think that Utilitarianism should be read in light of On Liberty, not vice versa, as contemporary textbooks tend to present Mill. In addition, Capaldi provides an in-depth examination of Mill's intellectual growth. He starts with Mill's early education and exposure to the philosophical radicalism of his father and Jeremy Bentham, and describes how Mill spent a large part of his life struggling to keep what he believed was good about their hedonistic utilitarianism while rejecting its inadequacies. Capaldi shows us how the style of education Mill received permanently influences Mill's manner of thinking. Capaldi demonstrates how Mill is essentially a dialectical thinker attempting to synthesize Romantic deontology with its emphasis on autonomous self-development, with empiricist ethical methodology with its emphasis on pleasure and associationist human psychology. At the same time, Capaldi illuminates the precise ways that figures like Carlyle, Hegel, Comte, Coleridge, and of course Harriot Taylor influenced Mill. Capaldi helps us learn how to read Mill, based on who Mill's audience was and the purpose of his various texts. One's view of Utilitarianism, for instance, will be radically changed in light of Capaldi's biography. This text, taken as the definitive statement of Mill's theory by most contemporary philosophers, emerges as a rather restrained attempt to defend a general class of philosophies, will Mill's own beliefs quite hidden under the surface.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 16, 2013
Format: Paperback
Nicholas Capaldi was formerly a Professor of Philosophy and law at the University of Tulsa. He has also written books such as David Hume: Knowledge Products (Giants of Philosophy) (Library Edition),The Art of Deception: An Introduction to Critical Thinking, Journeys Through Philosophy: A Classical Introduction, etc. [NOTE: page references below refer to 428-page Advanced Bound Galley edition.]

He wrote in the Preface to this 2004 book about Mill (1806-1873), "More than just a writer, Mill was a public figure... In many ways, he was the quintessential Victorian intellectual, bringing his critical faculties to bear on all of the major issues of the day in a manner that was accessible to the average intelligent layperson... In the twentieth century, only Bertrand Russell has come close to achieving the kind of general public recognition accorded to Mill in the nineteenth." (Pg. ix) He explains why an "intellectual biography of Mill is especially useful... [it] helps to make clear all the ways in which his various endeavors are related... the evolution of Mill's thinking is part of the very subject matter of his thought... paradoxically, the very existence of the Autobiography has been an obstacle to writing an intellectual biography... I have taken seriously Mill's claims about Harriet [Taylor] ...
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10 of 25 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Haverstick on February 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
From the view of philosophy departments, Mill is frequently read as as figure in the line of traditional empiricists stretching from Locke to Russell. In that context, some of his teachings, such as the quality of pleasure and the primacy of social good seem like, well, mistakes. In fact, that's how it was presented to me in school and I'm afraid I may have passed that view on. I always wondered how a guy so smart could be so dumb. By bringing in the French connection (and Mill's intellectual environment in general), Capaldi presents the complete thinker. That's a service. Of course, given their format, no title in this series from Cambridge can be either a full scale biography or a full scale commentary.
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