John Stuart Mill (1806-73) was educated by his father and through his influence obtained a clerkship at India House. He formed the Utilitarian Society which met to read and discuss essays, and in 1825 he edited Bentham’s Treatise upon Evidence. In 1826 he suffered an acute mental crisis and found that poetry helped him recover the will to live, particularly the work of Wordsworth. Having reconsidered his aims and those of the Benthamite school, he met Harriet Taylor and she inspired a great deal of his philosophy. They married in 1851. Utilitarianism was published in 1861 but before that Mill published his System of Logic (1843), Principles of Political Economy (1848) and On Liberty (1839). His other works include his classic Autobiography (1873). Mill retired in 1858 and became the independent MP for Westminster from 1865 to 1868. He spent the rest of his life in France and died in Avignon.
Alan Ryan has served as a judge for the Film Fantasy Awards and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. He regularly contributes to The Washington Post, USA Today, The Smithsonian, and Travel and Leisure, among other publications.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a reformer who applied the test of utility to the law and politics of his day. Legislators must aim at 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number,' and Bentham explained in minute detail how they might achieve it. John Stuart Mill (1806-73), whose education at the hands of a Benthamite father had ended in emotional collapse, thought Bentham's ideal of human happiness too narrow and set out to reconcile his utilitarian inheritance with his own passionate commitment to freedom, spontaneity and imagination. In his essays on Bentham and Coleridge, and above all in Utilitarianism, Mill balanced the claims of reason and the imagination, justice and expediency, individuality and social well-being in a system of ethics that is as relevant to today's intellectua and moral dilemmas it was to the nineteenth century's.