From the state of nature to evolution in John Stuart Mill

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John Stuart Mill's familiar ideas, such as the harm principle, the emphasis on the liberty of thought and discussion, and the extension of politics into the family and education, are all linked to a developmental and open-ended view of nature. To ground this perception of nature, Mill makes use of contemporary notions of evolution. For Mill, nature encompasses human civilisation and its higher products such as morality and justice. However, Mill recognises no benevolent guiding hand in the physical world, which the idea of evolution enables him to understand as self-propelled. Destruction and pain are part of the overall developmental movement, so that human lives always stand the danger of being crushed by nature. To minimise such risks, humans should use the distinctive features of their species, such as reason and morality, thus continuing nature while transforming it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-321
Number of pages17
JournalAustralian Journal of Politics and History
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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