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UCL marks a place in British intellectual history for John Stuart Mill

Publication date: Mar 23, 2006 11:06:14 AM

The bicentenary of the birth of one the 19th century’s greatest thinkers, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), will be marked with an international conference hosted by UCL (University College London) from 5 to 7 April 2006.

The legacy of J S Mill, British political thinker, philosopher, economist, politician and public intellectual, is rich and diverse. His impact on modern culture and thought has been immense, and his continuing importance for contemporary philosophy and social thought is undisputed.

To the public at large, Mill was best known as the author of Principles of Political Economy (1848), a work that tried to show that economics was not the “dismal science” that its radical and literary critics had supposed. But, during his lifetime, it was his essay On Liberty (1859) that aroused the greatest controversy – and the most violent expressions of approval and disapproval. In the essay Mill alerts his readers to the spectre of imposed uniformity, collective mediocrity, and the danger that individuality was under threat of extinction and that bold and adventurous individuals were becoming all too rare. Of Mill's shorter works, The Subjection of Women (1869) was thought to be excessively radical in his time but is now seen as a classic statement of liberal feminism.

This major international and interdisciplinary conference is hosted by the UCL Bentham Project and organised by Dr Georgios Varouxakis of Queen Mary, University of London, and Professor Philip Schofield of the UCL Bentham Project. It is the greatest gathering of Mill scholarship ever to take place with speakers from all continents and from a great variety of disciplines. Through a series of keynote speeches, round-table discussions and the presentation of approximately 140 academic papers, the conference will focus on Mill’s contemporary relevance, as well as on his place in British intellectual history.

Keynote speakers include:

Professor Peter Singer (Princeton): ‘Mill’s Relevance: A Personal View’

Professor Martha Nussbaum (Chicago): ‘Mill’s Feminism: Liberal, Radical and Queer’

Professor John Skorupski (St Andrews): ‘Liberalism as Free Thought’

Dr Georgios Varouxakis, of Queen Mary, University of London, explains: “It is difficult to exaggerate John Stuart Mill’s significance and influence. He was not merely an astonishingly versatile thinker who made major contributions to many areas of philosophy, economics, and political theory. He was also a ‘public moralist’ and public intellectual par excellence, a committed thinker who, by the last two to three decades of his life, obtained a rare ascendancy over his contemporaries as well as over thinkers and students of subsequent generations. As befits this fundamentally cosmopolitan thinker, his reputation and influence reached far beyond his native country.”

Professor Philip Schofield, of the UCL Bentham Project, adds: “UCL has an intimate connection with the English utilitarians and philosophic radicals. Its foundation owed much to their efforts, and was greatly influenced by their educational philosophy. Mill was educated by his father with the advice of Jeremy Bentham, one of UCL’s forefathers. Moreover, John Stuart Mill himself attended UCL to hear the lectures of John Austin, the first Professor of Jurisprudence. It is, therefore, the most apposite venue for this conference, which aims to reassess the life, thought and legacy of J S Mill and his relevance for the twenty-first century.”

To find out more and access a copy of the full programme, click on: http://www.politicalthought.org.uk/conference/index.php

The conference is sponsored by The British Academy, the International Society for Utilitarian Studies [ISUS], the journal Utilitas, and the ‘Political Thought’ Specialist Group of the Political Studies Association of the UK [PSA]

Notes to editors

To reserve a press pass or for further information, please contact:

Judith H Moore, UCL Media Relations, Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 7678, Mobile: +44 (0)7733307596, Email: judith.moore@ucl.ac.uk

Further information about John Stuart Mill can be found at:

http://www.utilitarianism.com/jsmill.htm

http://www.iep.utm.edu/m/milljs.htm