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Modern Theories of Politics

Series:

Evangelia Sembou

Everything you ever wanted to know about modern political theory, but never dared to ask …
This book offers a concise introduction to the main ideas and arguments of the major political thinkers of modernity. It considers the following key thinkers: Hobbes, Locke, Bentham, J. S. Mill, Rousseau, Burke, Hegel and Marx.
Perhaps the best way to understand the ideas of a thinker is to read from their work. This book devotes each chapter to the main writings of a single thinker, providing excerpts from their work and explaining their views in detail. Readers are not expected to have any previous knowledge of the writings of these eight political philosophers, but by the end they should have a solid grasp of their central ideas. This book serves as an essential guide to some of the most important writings on political philosophy of modern times.

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Chapter 4 John Stuart Mill

Extract

John Stuart Mill lived from 1806 to 1873. He was the first of six children. His father was responsible for his education. With this task James Mill was often assisted by Jeremy Bentham. His father and Bentham designed a rigorous education for the junior Mill, the purpose being to make him a perfect utilitarian, as they wanted him to take over the leadership of the philosophic radicals. John Stuart Mill started to learn ancient Greek when he was three. As he says in his Autobiography: My earliest recollection on the subject, is that of committing to memory what my father termed vocables, being lists of common Greek words, with their signification in English, which he wrote out for me on cards. Of grammar, until some years later, I learnt no more than the inf lexions of the nouns and verbs, but after a course of vocables, proceeded at once to translation.1 Thus by seven John Stuart Mill had read an impressive – considering his age – amount of ancient Greek literature – Aesop’s Fables, most of Herodotus’s works, Xenophon’s Cyropsedia, the account of the lives of some philoso- phers by Diogenes Laertius, part of Lucian and Isocrates, as well as the six earliest Platonic dialogues.2 In this early part of his education Mill was also taught arithmetic.3 And at the age of eight he started Latin.4 At about the same time he started mathematics and science, and by twelve he had learnt 1 J. S. Mill, ‘Autobiography’, in J. S. Mill and T....

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