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John Stuart Mill: On Instruction, Intellectual Development, and Disciplined Learning

John Stuart Mill: On Instruction, Intellectual Development, and Disciplined Learning

A pupil from whom nothing is ever demanded which he cannot do, never does all he can.
~ John Stuart Mill


John Stuart Mill, born in London in 1806, was educated by his father, James Mill, a leading exponent of radicalism. John Stuart Mill, largely due to the conscientious and attentive instruction of his father, became one of the most widely recognized authorities on utilitarianism.2 His most famous works include On Liberty, Representative Government, Utilitarianism, and The Subjection of Women.

In the mid 1850’s, Mill wrote his Autobiography, and in it we find a remarkable story of a father dedicated to the intellectual development of his son, as is evidenced in the methods he used to instruct, guide, and direct John Stuart Mill to ever deeper levels of understanding, insight and knowledge.

This article details the most prominent instructional methods used by Mill’s father. James Mill carefully crafted a one-on-one tutorial approach, with emphasis on the development of critical thinking abilities, traits and dispositions.

Though much can be learned from the writings of great thinkers, seldom do we find documentation of the methods used to develop the thinker’s mind. And even more rarely do we find...

To read the full article, join the Center for Critical Thinking Community Online – the world’s leading online community dedicated to teaching and advancing critical thinking. Featuring the world's largest library of critical thinking articles, videos, and books, as well as learning activities, study groups, and a social media component, this interactive learning platform is essential to anyone dedicated to developing as an effective reasoner in the classroom, in the professions, in business and government, and throughout personal life. 

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