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God in the Marketplace: A Reconsideration of Robert Watts as an Early Critic of J.S. Mill's Utilitarianism

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Abstract:

This article examines the arguments used by Robert Watts, a contemporary of John Stuart Mill, in his criticism of Mill's Utilitarianism. The pamphlet in which Watts expresses his views is a scarce and neglected work. Pioneering studies by J.C. Rees and J.B. Schneewind emphasize the importance of Mill's early critics for historians of nineteenth-century ethics and politial thought. Rees, however, confines his study to the responses to Mill's On Liberty. Schneewind's work is more comprehensive and does mention Watts, but without examining in detail the actual arguments that Watts uses. Further, while Watts criticizes Mill's ethical views from a theological standpoint the arguments he uses are philosophical in character. Watts should not be thought of as a major philosophical critic of Mill, but his relative neglect leaves a gap in the study of the reception of Mill's thought which this article is intended to fill.

Keywords: History of Ethics; History of Political Thought; John Stuart Mill; Mill's early critics; Philosophy of Religion; Robert Watts; ethics; nineteenth century ethics; utilitarianism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Dept. of Philosophy, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Highfield Road, Southampton, SO17 1BP, Email: ww@soton.ac.uk

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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