140+ Best John Stuart Mill Quotes: Exclusive Selction

John Stuart Mill, usually cited as J. S. Mill, was a British philosopher, political economist, and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism, he contributed widely to social theory, political theory, and political economy. Powerful collection of profoundly inspirational John Stuart Mill quotes on utilitarianism, liberty, democracy, feminism, philosophy, and free speech will challenge the way you think.

Famous John Stuart Mill Quotes

All good things which exist are the fruits of originality. – John Stuart Mill

One person with a belief is equal to ninety-nine who have only interests. – John Stuart Mill

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. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. – John Stuart Mill

Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative. – John Stuart Mill

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. – John Stuart Mill

Let not anyone pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. – John Stuart Mill

Those only are happy (I thought) who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness. – John Stuart Mill

The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of its brightest ornaments, of those distinguished even in popular estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete sceptics in religion. – John Stuart Mill

A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another, and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the dominant power in the government. – John Stuart Mill

The tendency has always been strong to believe that whatever received a name must be an entity or being, having an independent existence of its own. And if no real entity answering to the name could be found, men did not for that reason suppose that none existed but imagined that it was something peculiarly abstruse and mysterious. – John Stuart Mill

This is what writers mean when they say that the notion of cause involves the idea of necessity. If there be any meaning which confessedly belongs to the term necessity, it is unconditionalness. That which is necessary, that which must be, means that which will be, whatever supposition we may make in regard to all other things. – John Stuart Mill

The application of algebra to geometry … has immortalized the name of Descartes, and constitutes the greatest single step ever made in the progress of the exact sciences. – John Stuart Mill

The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. – John Stuart Mill

A government with all this mass of favors to give or to withhold, however free in name, wields a power of bribery scarcely surpassed by an avowed autocracy, rendering it master of the elections in almost any circumstances but those of rare and extraordinary public excitement. – John Stuart Mill

To mistake money for wealth, is the same sort of error as to mistake the highway which may be the easiest way of getting to your house or lands, for the house and lands themselves. – John Stuart Mill

All acts suppose certain dispositions, and habits of mind and heart, which may be in themselves states of enjoyment or of wretchedness, and which must be fruitful in other consequences besides those particular acts. – John Stuart Mill

Language is the light of the mind – John Stuart Mill

Every man who says frankly and fully what he thinks is so far doing a public service. We should be grateful to him for attacking most unsparingly our most cherished opinions. – John Stuart Mill

We often hear the teachers of all creeds lamenting the difficulty of keeping up in the minds of believers a lively apprehension of the truth which they nominally recognize, so that it may penetrate the feelings, and acquire a real mastery over the conduct…. When it has come to be a hereditary creed, and to be received passively, not actively … there is a progressive tendency to forget all of the belief except the formularies … until it almost ceases to connect itself at all with the inner life of the human being. – John Stuart Mill

The principles which men profess on any controverted subject are usually a very incomplete exponent of the opinions they really hold. – John Stuart Mill

A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life. – John Stuart Mill

When a thing is bought not for its use but for its costliness, cheapness is no recommendation. As Sismondi remarks, the consequence of cheapening articles of vanity, is not that less is expended on such things, but that the buyers substitute for the cheapened article some other which is more costly, or a more elaborate quality of the same thing; and as the inferior quality answered the purpose of vanity equally well when it was equally expensive, a tax on the article is really paid by nobody: it is a creation of public revenue by which nobody loses. – John Stuart Mill

The natural tendency of representative government, as of modern civilisation, is towards collective mediocrity: and this tendency is increased by all reductions and extensions of the franchise, their effect being to place the principal power in the hands of classes more and more below the highest level of instruction in the community. – John Stuart Mill

A people among whom there is no habit of spontaneous action for a collective interest – who look habitually to their government to command or prompt them in all matters of joint concern – who expect to have everything done for them, except what can be made an affair of mere habit and routine – have their faculties only half developed; their education is defective in one of its most important branches. – John Stuart Mill

The struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar; particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England – John Stuart Mill

All attempts by the State to bias the conclusions of its citizens on disputed subjects, are evil. – John Stuart Mill

Not only the grounds of the opinion are forgotten in the absence of discussion, but too often the meaning of the opinion itself… Instead of a vivid conception and a living belief, there remain only a few phrases retained by rote; or, if any part, the shell and husk only of the meaning is retained, the finer essence being lost. – John Stuart Mill

The strongest of all arguments against the interference of the public with purely personal conduct, is that when it does interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly, and in the wrong place. – John Stuart Mill

The real advantage which truth has, consists in this, that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice, or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally be found persons to rediscover it – John Stuart Mill

To say that secular means irreligious implies that all the arts and sciences are irreligious and is very like saying that all professions except that of the law are illegal. – John Stuart Mill

The idea is essentially repulsive, of a society held together only by the relations and feelings arising out of pecuniary interest. – John Stuart Mill

In all intellectual debates, both sides tend to be correct in what they affirm, and wrong in what they deny. – John Stuart Mill

A state which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes–will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished. – John Stuart Mill

Photography is a brief complicity between foresight and luck. – John Stuart Mill

History shows that great economic and social forces flow like a tide over communities only half conscious of that which is befalling them. Wise statesmen foresee what time is thus bringing, and try to shape institutions and mold men’s thoughts and purposes in accordance with the change that is silently coming on. The unwise are those who bring nothing constructive to the process, and who greatly imperil the future of mankind by leaving great questions to be fought out between ignorant change on one hand and ignorant opposition to change on the other. – John Stuart Mill

There is an imaginary circle drawn around every human being, over which no government should be able to step. – John Stuart Mill

The price paid for intellectual pacification is the sacrifice of the entire moral courage of the human mind. – John Stuart Mill

We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still. – John Stuart Mill

We have a right, also, in various ways, to act upon our unfavorable opinion of anyone, not to the oppression of his individuality, but in the exercise of ours. – John Stuart Mill

Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom. – John Stuart Mill

What distinguishes the majority of men from the few is their inability to act according to their beliefs. – John Stuart Mill

Men do not desire to be rich, but to be richer than other men. – John Stuart Mill

As often as a study is cultivated by narrow minds, they will draw from it narrow conclusions. – John Stuart Mill

In this age, the man who dares to think for himself and to act independently does a service to his race. – John Stuart Mill

I did not mean that Conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally Conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentleman will question it. – John Stuart Mill

It is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others. – John Stuart Mill

Over one’s mind and over one’s body the individual is sovereign. – John Stuart Mill

The principle itself of dogmatic religion, dogmatic morality, dogmatic philosophy, is what requires to be booted out; not any particular manifestation of that principle. – John Stuart Mill

To discover to the world something which deeply concerns it, and of which it was previously ignorant; to prove to it that it had been mistaken on some vital point of temporal or spiritual interest, is as important a service as a human being can render to his fellow creatures. – John Stuart Mill

A great statesman is he who knows when to depart from traditions, as well as when to adhere to them. – John Stuart Mill

However unwillingly a person who has a strong opinion may admit the possibility that his opinion may be false, he ought to be moved by the consideration that, however true it may be, if it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth. – John Stuart Mill

Actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain. – John Stuart Mill

The fatal tendency of mankind to leave off thinking about a thing when it is no longer doubtful is the cause of half their errors. – John Stuart Mill

The demand for commodities is not the demand for labor. – John Stuart Mill

If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. – John Stuart Mill

Liberty lies in the rights of that person whose views you find most odious. – John Stuart Mill

I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them. – John Stuart Mill

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. – John Stuart Mill

When one’s ideas are not challenged, one’s ability to defend them weakens. – John Stuart Mill

A person may cause evil to others not only by his actions but by his inaction, and in either case he is justly accountable to them for the injury. – John Stuart Mill

To tax the larger incomes at a higher percentage than the smaller, is to lay a tax on industry and economy; to impose a penalty on people for having worked harder and saved more than their neighbors. – John Stuart Mill

How can great minds be produced in a country where the test of great minds is agreeing in the opinion of small minds? – John Stuart Mill

There is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides. – John Stuart Mill

Whatever crushes individuality is despotism. – John Stuart Mill

Every great movement must experience three stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption. – John Stuart Mill

The pupil who is never required to do what he cannot do, never does what he can do. – John Stuart Mill

Since the state must necessarily provide subsistence for the criminal poor while undergoing punishment, not to do the same for the poor who have not offended is to give a premium on crime. – John Stuart Mill

The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people. – John Stuart Mill

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error. – John Stuart Mill

The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it. – John Stuart Mill

A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. – John Stuart Mill

Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough; there needs protection against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them. – John Stuart Mill

The general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind. – John Stuart Mill

the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner. – John Stuart Mill

There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home. – John Stuart Mill

The duty of man is the same in respect to his own nature as in respect to the nature of all other things, namely not to follow it but to amend it. – John Stuart Mill

Life has a certain flavor for those who have fought and risked all that the sheltered and protected can never experience. – John Stuart Mill

Popular opinions, on subjects not palpable to sense, are often true, but seldom or never the whole truth. – John Stuart Mill

The disease which inflicts bureaucracy and what they usually die from is routine. – John Stuart Mill

All action is for the sake of some end; and rules of action, it seems natural to suppose, must take their whole character and color from the end to which they are subservient. – John Stuart Mill

It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. – John Stuart Mill

Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives. – John Stuart Mill

He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that. – John Stuart Mill

All desirable things… are desirable either for the pleasure inherent in themselves, or as a means to the promotion of pleasure and the prevention of pain. – John Stuart Mill

The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses. – John Stuart Mill

The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. – John Stuart Mill

The most cogent reason for restricting the interference of government is the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its power. – John Stuart Mill

All political revolutions, not affected by foreign conquest, originate in moral revolutions. The subversion of established institutions is merely one consequence of the previous subversion of established opinions. – John Stuart Mill

Of two pleasures, if there be one which all or almost all who have experience of both give a decided preference, irrespective of any feeling of moral obligation to prefer it, that is the more desirable pleasure. – John Stuart Mill

Pleasure and freedom from pain, are the only things desirable as ends. – John Stuart Mill

I am not aware that any community has a right to force another to be civilized. – John Stuart Mill

The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement. – John Stuart Mill

As for charity, it is a matter in which the immediate effect on the persons directly concerned, and the ultimate consequence to the general good, are apt to be at complete war with one another. – John Stuart Mill

The individual is not accountable to society for his actions in so far as these concern the interests of no person but himself. – John Stuart Mill

The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of the time. – John Stuart Mill

Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character had abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and courage which it contained. – John Stuart Mill

That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time. – John Stuart Mill

Unquestionably, it is possible to do without happiness; it is done involuntarily by nineteen-twentieths of mankind. – John Stuart Mill

As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other. – John Stuart Mill

No slave is a slave to the same lengths, and in so full a sense of the word, as a wife is. – John Stuart Mill

Men might as well be imprisoned, as excluded from the means of earning their bread. – John Stuart Mill

The dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution is one of the pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience refutes. – John Stuart Mill

Originality is the one thing unoriginal minds cannot feel the use of. – John Stuart Mill

There is never any fair and thorough discussion of heretical opinions… The greatest harm done is to those who are not heretics, and whose whole mental development is cramped, and their reason cowed, by the fear of heresy. – John Stuart Mill

The spirit of improvement is not always a spirit of liberty, for it may aim at forcing improvements on an unwilling people. – John Stuart Mill

The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it — a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes — will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished. – John Stuart Mill

There is one plain rule of life. Try thyself unweariedly till thou findest the highest thing thou art capable of doing, faculties and outward circumstances being both duly considered, and then do it. – John Stuart Mill

It is part of the irony of life that the strongest feelings of devoted gratitude of which human nature seems to be susceptible, are called forth in human beings towards those who, having the power entirely to crush their earthly existence, voluntarily refrain from using that power. – John Stuart Mill

Stupidity is much the same all the world over – John Stuart Mill

if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility. – John Stuart Mill

It’s hardly possible to overstate the value, in the present state of human improvement, of placing human beings in contact with other persons dissimilar to themselves, and with modes of thought and action unlike those with which they are familiar. Such communication has always been… one of the primary sources of progress. – John Stuart Mill

Most persons have but a very moderate capacity of happiness. Expecting…in marriage a far greater degree of happiness than they commonly find and knowing not that the fault is in their own scanty capability of happiness. – John Stuart Mill

In early times, the great majority of the male sex were slaves, as well as the whole of the female. And many ages elapsed, some of them ages of high cultivation, before any thinker was bold enough to question the rightfulness, and the absolute social necessity, either of the one slavery or of the other. – John Stuart Mill

Most boys or youths who have had much knowledge drilled into them, have their mental capacities not strengthened, but overlaid by it. They are crammed with mere facts, and with the opinions and phrases of other people, and these are accepted as a substitute for the power to form opinions of their own. And thus, the sons of eminent fathers, who have spared no pains in their education, so often grow up mere parroters of what they have learnt, incapable of using their minds except in the furrows traced for them. – John Stuart Mill

The average condition of the people improving or deteriorating, depends upon whether population is advancing faster than improvement, or improvement than population. – John Stuart Mill

The sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable, is that people do actually desire it. – John Stuart Mill

There is always need of persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life. – John Stuart Mill

They who know how to employ opportunities will often find that they can create them; and what we can achieve depends less on the amount of time we possess than on the use we make of our time. – John Stuart Mill

Since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinion that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. – John Stuart Mill

With equality of experience and of general faculties, a woman usually sees much more than a man of what is immediately before her. – John Stuart Mill

Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil; there is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend to only one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood. – John Stuart Mill

When the land is cultivated entirely by the spade and no horses are kept, a cow is kept for every three acres of land. – John Stuart Mill

No longer enslaved or made dependent by force of law, the great majority are so by force of property; they are still chained to a place, to an occupation, and to conformity with the will of an employer, and debarred by the accident of birth to both the enjoyments, and from the mental and moral advantages, which others inherit without exertion and independently of desert. That this is an evil equal to almost any of those against which mankind have hitherto struggles, the poor are not wrong in believing. – John Stuart Mill

A man of clear ideas errs grievously if he imagines that whatever is seen confusedly does not exist; it belongs to him, when he meets with such a thing, to dispel the midst, and fix the outlines of the vague form which is looming through it. – John Stuart Mill

The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be. – John Stuart Mill

To think that because those who wield power in society wield in the end that of government, therefore it is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the government by acting on opinion, is to forget that opinion is itself one of the greatest active social forces. One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests. – John Stuart Mill

Instead of the function of governing, for which it is radically unfit, the proper office of a representative assembly is to watch and control the government. – John Stuart Mill

Everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit. – John Stuart Mill

It often happens that the universal belief of one age, a belief from which no one was free or could be free without an extraordinary effort of genius or courage, becomes to a subsequent age, so palpable an absurdity, that the only difficulty is to imagine how such an idea could ever have appeared credible. – John Stuart Mill

Lord, enlighten thou our enemies. Sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions, and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers: we are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom; their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength. – John Stuart Mill

Marriage is the only actual bondage known to our law. There remain no legal slaves, except the mistress of every house. – John Stuart Mill

Any participation, even in the smallest public function, is useful. – John Stuart Mill

But society has now fairly got the better of individuality; and the danger which threatens human nature is not the excess, but the deficiency, of personal Impulses and preferences. – John Stuart Mill

I will call no being good who is not what I mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a creature can sentence me to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go . – John Stuart Mill

Laws and systems of polity always begin by recognizing the relations they find already existing between individuals. – John Stuart Mill

All social inequalities which have ceased to be considered expedient, assume the character not of simple inexpediency, but of injustice, and appear so tyrannical, that people are apt to wonder how they ever could have. been tolerated; forgetful that they themselves perhaps tolerate other inequalities under an equally mistaken notion of expediency, the correction of which would make that which they approve seem quite as monstrous as what they have at last learnt to condemn. – John Stuart Mill

Each undervalues that part of the materials of thought with which he is not familiar. – John Stuart Mill

There is a tolerably general agreement about what a university is not. It is not a place of professional education. – John Stuart Mill

What is contrary to women’s nature to do, they never will be made to do by simply giving their nature free play. – John Stuart Mill

The ne plus ultra of wickedness is embodied in what is commonly presented to mankind as the creed of Christianity. – John Stuart Mill

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