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GRAND IDEALS: MILL'S TWO PERFECTIONISMS

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Abstract:

I argue that there are two forms of perfectionism in John Stuart Mill's work, two ideals of the person. One, the self-development ideal, is found in On Liberty. The other, the strong identification ideal, is tied to Mill's advocacy of a 'religion of humanity' and is found in Utilitarianism, 'Utility of Religion', and other texts. My first concern is to show that Mill's work contains this latter ideal. Next, I situate the strong identification ideal historically. Finally, I ask whether both ideals could be substantially realized in a single life. The ideals are not logically incompatible. Their incompatibility will be one or another form of practical incompatibility. Most importantly, any form of perfectionism concerns the kind of person to be: it involves a distinctive habit of mind. The fundamental tension between the Millian ideals concerns the difficulty of combining their different habits of mind.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago, 1115 East 58th St., Chicago IL 60637, USA, Email: d-brudney@uchicago.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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