John Stuart Mill was a Victorian philosopher, economist, and for a short time a Member of Parliament. He is best known for his inductivist epistemology, his formulation of utilitarianism, and his support of the women’s rights movement.

Mill’s utilitarian theory of ethics is at base hedonistic, holding that we ought to maximise pleasure and minimise pain, and that nothing other than pleasure and pain are relevant to ethics. Mill modified this Benthamite theory, however, to differentiate between higher and lower pleasures. Higher pleasures, he held, such as those resulting from the appreciation of poetry or from philosophical debate, are more valuable than lower, more animal, pleasures. We therefore ought to give cultivated, higher pleasures, more weight than lower pleasures in deciding what course of action to take.

In addition to his better known achievements, Mill also contributed to the philosophy of religion, writing three essays on religion: Nature; Utility of Religion; and Theism.