From Publishers Weekly
While he is considered to be the greatest English intellectual of the 19th century, Mill (18061873) is often reduced to a set of parochial engagements with his "utilitarianism." In this authoritatively comprehensive analysis of Mills 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, Mills 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"), Mills 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 Mills uniquely organic synthesis of British ratiocination with German Romanticism that represented a nexus of Mills educational heritage and his mature encounters with Continental thinkers, such as Kant and Hegel, Comte and Tocqueville. Capaldis liberal use of primary texts and vigilant concern for intellectual context reveal Mills thought as reflective of the overall Enlightenment turn towards integrating science, logic and metaphysics into politically oriented theories aimed at creating social equality. Capaldis 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