Thursday, January 15, 2009

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill is one of the most influential philosophers who rose in the 19th century Britain. He is an economist, political and moral theorist, and an administrator, who was greatly influenced by his Jonathan Bentham through his father, James Mill. Born in Pentoville, then a suburb of London, he had been schooled in the classics and was able read them in Greek and Latin by the age of fourteen and had done extensive study on mathematics and the basics of economic theories. He had been schooled in the associationist school of Bentham. By the age of 15, he had undertaken the study of the various fragment of Bentham's theory of legal evidence. This had a deep effect on his on goal of reforming the world for the interest of human beings. He began working in a junior position in the East India Company, and he eventually landed on to become the Chief Examiner. In 1820, he became acquainted of French thought and history during his visit there. Six years after, he suffered great depression, which his reading of Wordsworth's poetry had ameliorated greatly. He had been educated in the strict and rigorous intellectual analysis, which hampered his capacity of emotions.

He began to appreciate the role that cultural and social institutions in the historical development of human beings from his readings of French thinkers. From reading Comte came the idea that "social change proceeds through critical periods, in which old institutions are overthrown, followed by organic periods - a stage of consolidation and social cohesion that began to emerge. He proposed that social change be in a piece-meal fashion; grand schemes for philosophy could not be offered to avoid being viewed radical. Only gradually will the principles be proposed. He did not advocate destroying existing forms but had to get the best of it to incorporate on the new.

The philosopher had greatly acknowledged the contribution the woman in his life gave - Harriet Taylor, a woman whom he married after the latter got widowed. Under the extreme disapproval of his family, he married the woman, who would greatly influence him in his philosophical proclivity. Later in his life, he got involve in politics and ended it when he failed to be re-elected in 1868.

He published System of Logic, The Principles of Political Economy, Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy, Considerations and Representative Government, The Subjection of Women, and partially-finished Autobiography. But he is well-known to publishing the work entitled On Liberty and Utilitarianism.

The overall picture of his philosphy lies in his constant view of the positivity of the universe and the place of humans in it, in which one contributes to the progress of human knowledge and individual freedom and human being. Though his views are entirely original but he gave depth to the works of celebrated philosophers who lived before him: Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.

Principles Prevalent in the Government
There are many principles enunciated by this political theorist, which have been integrated in present Philippine government. The first of these is the freedom of speech. As has been known, John Mill was a strong advocate for free discourse and expression. His argument is that free speech is a "necessary condition for intellectual and social progress". And that silenced opinion may contain a grain of truth, which deserves to be heard. He contends that there are primarily two reasons for which opinion deserves to be expressed: first, "individuals are more likely to abandon erroneous beliefs if they are engaged in an open exchange of ideas; second, by forcing other individuals to re-examine and re-affirm their beliefs in the process of debate, these beliefs are kept frm declining into mere dogma".

Another important expounded by the British philosopher is on the "harm principle". It holds that "each individual has the right to act as he wants, so long as these actions do not harm others". The only exception is when actions are self-regarding: when the individual only affects himself and no others. In this case, the society does not have any responsibility to intervene. He further elaborated the principle well within the framework on his discussion of liberty - "the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others."

The third and fourth principles Mill had greatly contributed so much for liberal political theory are social liberty and tyranny of majority. The former has been defined by the author as "as protection from the tyranny of political rulers", while the latter is "a desire of a people to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this, as against any other abuse of power". These two rules have been subserved in his discussion of the nature of liberty in his book "On Liberty", where he explores the relationship between liberty and authority.

In the controversy surrounding the issue of slavery in the fledgling United States, the J. S. Mill did not fail to notice the ethical implication of this moral issue. He sent a letter without his name titled "The Negro Question" in which he derided the position of Thomas Carlyle, another British political thinker and controversialist, whose position on the matter points on genetic inferiority of the blacks and the engenuity of the British to be successful in their trade of slavery in improving the economy.

The last of the principles, which this political thinker had been popularly associated with, is utilitarianism, which he heavily was influenced by the thoughts of Jeremy Bentham, a British legal thinker, whom his father had pound on him, when he was still young. This has been usually encapsulated famous formulation "greatest happiness principle". It holds that an action should produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. He further qualitatively divided and separation pleasures: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better t obe Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question."

Principles To Be Integrated to Philippine Government

Here I will cite one principle, which needs to be greatly integrated in the present governance: the prevention of the Tyranny of Majority. This tyranny make take several forms in Philippine life, and without our knowing it, it might have contributed to some of the disastrous social effects of Filipinos. In the Spanish days, it was the tyranny of the majority in power, who perpetuated the status quo to avoid freedom given over to the Indios. In the American rule, it was the majority of American ideals that intoxicated the universities, whose ideas hampered in any way from seeing ourselves as distinct capable of ruling ourselves. The post-war years saw Filipinos emerging from the dictates of a western capitalist government to a fledgling republic, which had displayed hints and traces of emerging corruptive government. Marcos regime saw a consolidation of power in a strongman rule, whose presidency culled a few majority, who virtually run the whole economy. We have yet to deserve that majority rule, whereby the principle of social liberty dictates the majority's will on to the bars of power and serves each individuals who comprise that political society by securing first and foremost self-protection from the caprice from without.

The principles mentioned above are lofty in their heights but deserve to be seen in their actuality. They don't remain an ideal but a goal to be reached and be done. What "ought to be" becomes "is to be" in the experience of ordinary Filipinos. The least that we can afford is an indifferentism that runs across age brackets, in a total absorption of skepticism to change social institutions. That has to be checked or else we don't secure the future of our republic.