5197 Helen C. White Hall
Philosophy 960 Syllabus Fall 2004
John Stuart Mill
John Stuart Mill was one of the leading intellectuals of Victorian England. His work spans virtually the entire subject-matter of philosophy, and he also was the leading economist of his day, a major political commentator, and even, for a couple of years, a member of Parliament. His collected works run to 33 fat volumes -- far more than we can read, let alone assimilate, in a semester. And, of course, there is also a massive secondary literature. In addition, by reading him as writing within a very special cultural, philosophical, economic, political, social and personal context, one can better understand what he is arguing, what his reasons are, and, more generally, how philosophical reflection interacts with intellectual, social, and personal context. We've got a large and exciting task ahead.
1. To read and analyze the best known works of Mill: Autobiography, Utilitarianism, On Liberty, On the Subjection of Women and (in part only) A System of Logic.
2. To place Mill's works within their historical context and to reflect on the ways in which philosophy reflects and influences context.
3. To explore the intellectual connections among the best known works and between them and other works of Mill's which are not as widely read today.
4. To clarify the connections between Mill's abstract philosophical commitments and his practical ethical and political ideals and objectives.
5. To query the substantive theses and arguments in Mill's works -- to ask what he was right about and what he got wrong.
The extent to which these seminar goals can be achieved is, of course, largely up to you, but the organization of the seminar and the contributions I make should always be comprehensible, and I hope that they will mostly appear sensible, too. If you cannot see how any particular discussion or reading assignment contributes to the goals of the seminar, please be sure to ask about it. In abstract matters it is especially important and especially difficult to be clear on what the point is. Keep asking "So what?"
1. In focusing on Mill's philosophy, this course will ignore some of Mill's most important intellectual contributions. The most glaring omission consists of Mill's economics, which we will not discuss.
2. Even within philosophy, this course does not aspire to comprehensiveness. It will not address all of the philosophical issues that Mill addressed.
I have ordered copies of Mill's Autobiography, as well as Utilitarianism, On Liberty, and On the Subjection of Women from the Underground Textbook Exchange (664 State Street). These are inexpensive, and they are works that all of you will probably want to own. Used and inexpensive copies of A System of Logic are readily available, and I encourage everyone to look for one either in used book stores or on the web from Amazon.com or Alibris.com. New reprints are available, but they are very expensive.
Paperback editions of On Bentham and Coleridge, Auguste Comte and Positivism are out of print, but are worth looking for. There is an excellent Modern Library edition of selections from Mill's work including his essays on Bentham and on Coleridge, but it too is out of print. Both Oxford and Everyman publish collections of Mill's works that include the full text of On Representative Government (from which we will be reading only a couple of chapters).
Apart from the four books I've ordered from the Underground Textbook Exchange, everything will be available either on line on in a folder in the Department library.
A variety of material, including the syllabus and some other materials in the xeroxed collection will also be available on the web. Some of it will be on a public web page: http://philosophy.wisc.edu/hausman/960f2004. Other resources (such as discussion forums) will be available via Learn@UW (https://uwmad.courses.wisconsin.edu/).
In addition to the readings, which are in some cases lengthy, students enrolled for credit will be asked once during the semester to lead the discussion. This will involve making a brief presentation and formulating discussion questions for consideration by the other members of the seminar. Almost every week discussion questions will be posted on the course discussion page either by me or by the student discussion leader, and everyone enrolled for credit will be asked to post a single paragraph developing questions or comments related to the discussion questions. Details concerning this web discussion, which is conceived of as extending and enriching discussion within the seminar, will be explained at the first meeting.
The main requirement for the seminar is a substantial research paper on a topic of your choosing, which will be due at the last meeting of the seminar, Monday, December 13. Students are required to submit a one-paragraph seminar-paper proposal by Monday, October 25 and to come talk with me about their plans. There are no fixed length limits on the seminar papers, but I would expect them to be between 15 and 20 pages, double-spaced with a font that will not challenge my fading eyesight.
Note: The following outline is tentative and incomplete. I will be adding optional readings of other texts of Mill's as well as secondary sources, and depending on our progress and your interests, there might be considerable changes of topics and readings.
Unless otherwise indicated, all the readings are by Mill.
Monday, September 13: Introduction. The range of Mill's interests. His intellectual and cultural background. What holds his work together?
Reading: The Autobiography of John Stuart Ch. 1, 2, and 5.
Monday, September 20: Empiricism and reasoning
Reading: David Hume An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, sec. II - VII.
A System of Logic, Book II, Ch. 3, Ch. 5, sec. 1, 4;
Monday, September 27: Science, association, induction, and the external world
Readings: An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy, ch. 11.
A System of Logic, Book III, Ch. I-IV.
Monday, October 4: Causation and the methods of induction
Readings: A System of Logic Book III, Ch. 5-8, Ch. 9, sec. 3, 6.
Monday, October 11: Causal complexity, unification, hypothesis, law, and scientific explanation
Readings: A System of Logic, Book III, Ch. 10-12; 13, sec. 5-7; 14, sec. 4-7. Ch. 16, 21, 22;
Monday, October 18: The methods of the social sciences; psychology, ethology, and the Separate Sciences
Readings: A System of Logic, Book VI, Ch. Book VI, ch. 1-9.
Monday, October 25: History, progress, and social science
Readings: A System of Logic, Book VI, Ch. 10.
August Comte and Positivism, Part I.
Monday, November 1: Utilitarianism and progress
"Whewell on Moral Philosophy," pp. 167-69, 179-86, 194
Utilitarianism, ch. 1, 2.
Monday, November 8 : Utilitarianism
Readings: Utilitarianism, ch. 3-5.
Monday, November 15: Utilitarianism, empiricism and social policy
Readings: On Liberty, ch. 1, 2.
Monday, November 22: Utilitarianism, liberty, and the nature of happiness
Readings: On Liberty, ch. 3, 4.
Monday, November 29: Implications of utilitarianism and the principle of liberty
Readings: On Liberty, ch. 5.
On the Subjection of Women, ch. 1.
Monday, December 6: Mill's social and political philosophy
Readings: On the Subjection of Women, ch. 2-4
Excerpts from Principles of Political Economy (from Book II, ch. 1, 2; Book IV, ch. 7)
Monday, December 13: Mill's political philosophy and conclusions
Readings: Considerations on Representative Government, Ch. 7, 18.
Chapters on Socialism, Chapter 1 and the first six paragraphs of Ch. 2.
The Autobiography of John Stuart Mill, Chapter VII.
If my office hours, (Monday 1:00-2:00 and Wednesdays 10:00-11:00) are not convenient, please don't hesitate to arrange another time to meet.
Email can be a great convenience, but it can get out of hand. Feel free to email me at email@example.com with any specific questions you have about assignments or requirements. Substantive questions and comments about Mill should be posted on the course discussion page (on Learn@UW), so that everybody else in the seminar can benefit from the question or comment, and you and I can benefit from their reactions or their thoughts about how to answer the question.
Though this should obviously go without saying, particularly in a graduate seminar: Plagiarism is a serious offense. All sources and assistance used in preparing your papers must be precisely and explicitly acknowledged. If you have any questions about what constitutes plagiarism, please come talk with me. The web creates special risks. Cutting and pasting even a few words from a web page or paraphrasing material without a reference constitutes plagiarism. If you are not sure how to refer to something you find on the internet, you can always give the URL. It is generally better to quote than to paraphrase from material on the web, because in the absence of page numbers it can be hard to find passages that are paraphrased rather than quoted. When referring to material from the web, specify the date that you accessed the material in addition to the URL, because web pages (unlike books and articles) change.