John Stuart Mill and romanticism
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This thesis is an examination of the philosophy of John Stuart Mill and its relation to the romantic movement. The Introduction outlines reasons to believe that such an inquiry is sensible: Mill’s readings of the British and German romantics are outlined. I proceed to offer an argument for the application of an historical term such as ‘romanticism’ in philosophy and suggest that the space opened up by the revisionist view of romanticism as an extension, rather than a denial, of the Enlightenment project creates room to take seriously Mill’s relation to the romantic movement. Chapters 1-4 are concerned with Mill’s metanormative theory. For Mill, the norms of acting and believing are founded on the assent given to our primitive dispositions under critical scrutiny. I investigate this foundation in the context of Mill’s denial of normative validity to intuitions. The relation of Mill’s metanormative theory to romanticism is taken up during the process of interpretation. The movement shows broad endorsement of what I term ‘romantic-cognitivism’ – the post-Kantian view that we can arrive at truth through the process of ‘creative-discovery’. I hold that Mill’s metanormative theory is not so far away from romantic-cognitivism in orientation as might be thought. I turn to Mill’s macro-epistemology and conception of mind in Chapter 5. Mill’s view of how we come to know, I suggest, moves towards a Coleridgean position – Mill sees the mind as active, and holds that we come to possess a deeper state of knowledge by engaging with propositions actively. In Chapter 6, I consider Mill’s philosophy of history. Many have noted that Mill endorses a directional theory of historical progress. I argue that he also adopts ‘hermeneutical historicism’ in his discussions of history. In Chapter 7, I consider Mill’s theory of human nature. Mill believes that human nature is malleable: it is subject to change and emendation.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: Electronic copy restricted until 18th November 2020
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations
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