Wednesday, January 13, 2010

John Stuart Mill and the Origin of Secular Humanism and Social Justice Education

I am reading John Stuart Mill's short book Utilitarianism. He is not the philosopher that Henry Sidgwick was, but I believe Mill's book had a great impact on the history of ideas, both on progressive education (and the notion of social justice education) and on Progressivism aka "state activist liberalism" aka social democracy. Mill refers to Comte and I will have to read his work too. Note this quote from pages 49-50 of Utilitarianism:

"In an improving state of the human mind, the influences are constantly on the increase, which tend to generate in each individual a feeling of unity with all the rest; which feeling, if perfect, would make him never think of, or desire, any beneficial condition for himself, in the benefits of which they are not included. If we now suppose this feeling of unity to be taught as a religion, and the whole force of education, of institutions, and of opinion directed as it once was in the case of religion, to make every person grow up from infancy surrounded on all sides both by the profession and by the practice of it. I think that no one, who can realize this conception, will feel any misgiving about the sufficiency of the ultimate sanction for the Happiness morality.* To any ethical student who finds the realization difficult, I recommend as a means of facilitating it, the second of M. Comte's two principal works, the Systeme de Politique Positive. I entertain the strongest objections to the system of politics and morals set forth in that treatise; but I think it has superabundantly shown the possibility of giving to the service of humanity, even without the aid of belief in a Providence, both the physical power and the social efficacy of a religion; making it take hold of human life, and colour all thought, feeling and action in a manner of which the greatest ascendency ever exercised by any religion may be but a type and foretaste; and of which the danger is not that it should be insufficient, but that it should be so excessive as to interfere unduly with human freedom and individuality."

*By the "happiness morality" Mill means utilitarianism.

1 comment:

Joe Toscano said...

Did you see today's jobless claims and December Retail Sales #'s, not very promising. Will we ever learn that truly free markets are best in fixing themselves, government can only screw it up more. each new layer of government takes more money out of the marketplace, money best left at the discretion of the taxpayer.