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John Stuart Mill: Overview

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) profoundly influenced the shape of nineteenth century British thought and political discourse. His substantial corpus of works includes texts in
logic, epistemology, economics, social and political philosophy, ethics, metaphysics, religion, and current affairs. Among his most well-known and significant are A System of
Logic, Principles of Political Economy, On Liberty, Utilitarianism, The Subjection of Women, Three Essays on Religion, and his Autobiography.
Mill’s education at the hands of his imposing father, James Mill, fostered both intellectual development (Greek at the age of three, Latin at eight) and a propensity towards
reform. James Mill and Jeremy Bentham led the “Philosophic Radicals,” who advocated for rationalization of the law and legal institutions, universal male suffrage, the use of
economic theory in political decision-making, and a politics oriented by human happiness rather than natural rights or conservatism. In his twenties, the younger Mill felt the
influence of historicism, French social thought, and Romanticism, in the form of thinkers like Coleridge, the St. Simonians, Thomas Carlyle, Goethe, and Wordsworth. This led
him to begin searching for a new philosophic radicalism that would be more sensitive to the limits on reform imposed by culture and history and would emphasize the
cultivation of our humanity, including the cultivation of dispositions of feeling and imagination (something he thought had been lacking in his own education).
None of Mill’s major writings remain independent of his moral, political, and social agenda. Even the most abstract works, such as the System of Logic and his Examination of
Sir William Hamilton’s Philosophy, serve polemical purposes in the fight against the German, or a priori, school otherwise called “intuitionism.” On Mill’s view, intuitionism
needed to be defeated in the realms of logic, mathematics, and philosophy of mind if its pernicious effects in social and political discourse were to be mitigated.
In his writings, Mill argues for a number of controversial principles. He defends radical empiricism in logic and mathematics, suggesting that basic principles of logic and
mathematics are generalizations from experience rather than known a priori. The principle of utility—that “actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness;
wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness”—was the centerpiece of his ethical philosophy. On Liberty puts forward the “harm principle” that “the only purpose for
which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” In The Subjection of Women, he compares
the legal status of women to the status of slaves and argues for equality in marriage and under the law.
Mill's Methods
Mill's Methods are five methods of induction described by philosopher John Stuart Mill in his 1843 book A System of Logic. They are intended to illuminate issues of
causation.
Three of these methods, namely the methods of agreement, difference and concomitant variation, were first described by Avicenna in his 1025 book The Canon of Medicine.[1]
[2]
The remaining two methods, namely the method of residues and the joint method of agreement and difference, were first described by Mill.
Direct Method of agreement
"If two or more instances of the phenomenon under investigation have only one circumstance in common, the circumstance in which alone all the instances agree, is the
cause (or effect) of the given phenomenon."
For a property to be a necessary condition it must always be present if the effect is present. Since this is so, then we are interested in looking at cases where the effect is
present and taking note of which properties, among those considered to be 'possible necessary conditions' are present and which are absent. Obviously, any properties which
are absent when the effect is present cannot be necessary conditions for the effect.
Symbolically, the method of agreement can be represented as:
A B C D occur together with w x y z
A E F G occur together with w t u v
——————————————————
Therefore A is the cause, the effect, or part of the cause of w.
Method of difference
“If an instance in which the phenomenon under investigation occurs, and an instance in which it does not occur, have every circumstance in common save one, that one
occurring only in the former; the circumstance in which alone the two instances differ, is the effect, or the cause, or an indispensable part of the cause, of the phenomenon.”
A B C D occur together with w x y z
B C D occur together with y w z
——————————————————
Therefore A is the cause, or the effect, or a part of the cause of x.
Joint method of agreement and difference
"If two or more instances in which the phenomenon occurs have only one circumstance in common, while two or more instances in which it does not occur have nothing in
common save the absence of that circumstance: the circumstance in which alone the two sets of instances differ, is the effect, or cause, or a necessary part of the cause, of
the phenomenon."
Also called simply the "joint method," this principle simply represents the application of the methods of agreement and difference.
Symbolically, the Joint method of agreement and difference can be represented as:
A B C occur together with x y z
A D E occur together with x y w also B C occur with y z
——————————————————
Therefore A is the cause, or the effect, or a part of the cause of x.
Method of residues
"Deduct from any phenomenon such part as is known by previous inductions to be the effect of certain antecedents, and the residue of the phenomenon is the effect of the
remaining antecedents."
If a range of factors are believed to cause a range of phenomena, and we have matched all the factors, except one, with all the phenomena, except one, then the remaining
phenomenon can be attributed to the remaining factor.
Symbolically, the Method of residues can be represented as:
A B C occur together with x y z
B is known to be the cause of y
C is known to be the cause of z
——————————————————
Therefore A is the cause or effect of x.
Method of concomitant variations
"Whatever phenomenon varies in any manner whenever another phenomenon varies in some particular manner, is either a cause or an effect of that phenomenon, or is
connected with it through some fact of causation."
If across a range of circumstances leading to a phenomenon, some property of the phenomenon varies in tandem with some factor existing in the circumstances, then the
phenomenon can be attributed to that factor. For instance, suppose that various samples of water, each containing both salt and lead, were found to be toxic. If the level of
toxicity varied in tandem with the level of lead, one could attribute the toxicity to the presence of lead.
Symbolically, the method of concomitant variation can be represented as (with ↑ representing an increase):
A B C occur together with x y z
A↑ B C results in x↑ y z.
—————————————————————
Therefore A and x are causally connected

Causality
Causality denotes a necessary relationship between one event (called cause) and another event (called effect) which is the direct consequence of the first.[1]
While this informal understanding suffices in everyday use, the philosophical analysis of how best to characterize causality extends over millennia. In the western philosophical
tradition explicit discussion stretches back at least as far as Aristotle, and the topic remains a staple in contemporary philosophy journals.
Though cause and effect are typically related to events, other candidates include processes, properties, variables, facts, and states of affairs; which of these make up the
correct causal relata, and how best to characterize the nature of the relationship between them, has as yet no universally accepted answer, and remains under discussion.
According to Sowa (2000),[2] up until the twentieth century, three assumptions described by Max Born in 1949 were dominant in the definition of causality:

1. "Causality postulates that there are laws by which the occurrence of an entity B of a certain class depends on the occurrence of an entity A of another class, where
the word entity means any physical object, phenomenon, situation, or event. A is called the cause, B the effect.
2. "Antecedence postulates that the cause must be prior to, or at least simultaneous with, the effect.

3. "Contiguity postulates that cause and effect must be in spatial contact or connected by a chain of intermediate things in contact." (Born, 1949, as cited in Sowa,
2000)
However, according to Sowa (2000), "relativity and quantum mechanics have forced physicists to abandon these assumptions as exact statements of what happens at the
most fundamental levels, but they remain valid at the level of human experience."[2]