60 John Stuart Mill Quotes on Life, Society, and Politics

John Stuart Mill quotes to make you think about what you will be remembered for.

John Stuart Mill was born in 1806.

He became a leading philosopher, civil servant, and political economist.

In fact, he was so famous and dedicated to his work that he has been referred to as one of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism.

As a proponent of utilitarianism, he pushed society in the direction of establishing the maximum happiness and well-being of each individual.

Along those lines, John Stuart Mill was a prominent figure in the Liberal Party and in the early movements for equal rights for women.

John Stuart Mill was a man that used his life to push forward the liberal movement.

Don’t forget to also check out these Nostradamus quotes from the work of the French Astrologer.

If you love this quote collection, read out our most popular quote article about short inspirational quotes for daily motivation. 

If you need more inspirational quotes, check out our motivational quotes category page.

John Stuart Mill quotes about life

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

John Stuart Mill quotes about life

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2. “After the primary necessities of food and raiment, freedom is the first and strongest want of human nature.” – John Stuart Mill

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

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4. “No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.” – John Stuart Mill

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5. “Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think…” – John Stuart Mill

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

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7. “The human faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice. He who does anything because it is the custom makes no choice.” – John Stuart Mill

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

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9. “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

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10. “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.” – John Stuart Mill

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11. “So true is that unnatural generally means only uncustomary and that everything which is usual appears natural.” – John Stuart Mill

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12. “No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead.” – John Stuart Mill

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13. “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

John Stuart Mill quotes about people

14. “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

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15. “It is not because men’s desires are strong that they act ill; it is because their consciences are weak.” – John Stuart Mill

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16. “There are no means of finding what either one person or many can do, but by trying – and no means by which anyone else can discover for them what it is for their happiness to do or leave undone.” – John Stuart Mill

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

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18. “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.” – John Stuart Mill

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19. “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

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20. “A person whose desires and impulses are his own—are the expression of his own nature, as it has been developed and modified by his own culture—is said to have a character. One whose desires and impulses are not his own has no character, no more than a steam-engine has character…” – John Stuart Mill

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21. “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

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22. “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

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23. “I consider it presumption in anyone to pretend to decide what women are or are not, can or cannot be, by natural constitution. They have always hitherto been kept, as far as regards spontaneous development, in so unnatural a state, that their nature cannot but have been greatly distorted and disguised; and no one can safely pronounce that if women’s nature were left to choose its direction as freely as men’s, and if no artificial bent were attempted to be given to it except that required by the conditions of human society, and given to both sexes alike, there would be any material difference, or perhaps any difference at all, in the character and capacities which would unfold themselves.” – John Stuart Mill

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24. “It is given to no human being to stereotype a set of truths, and walk safely by their guidance with his mind’s eye closed.” – John Stuart Mill

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John Stuart Mill quotes about society and politics

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

John Stuart Mill quotes about society and politics

26. “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

27. “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

28. “Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul.” – John Stuart Mill

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29. “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement.” – John Stuart Mill

30. “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

31. “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

32. “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

33. “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

34. “The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage it contained.” – John Stuart Mill

35. “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

36. “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
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37. “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

38. “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, whether this be a monarch, an aristocracy, or a majority of the existing generation; in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body.” – John Stuart Mill

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

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

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41. “Persons of genius, it is true, are, and are always likely to be, a small minority; but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the soil in which they grow.” – John Stuart Mill

42. “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

43. “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

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44. “Whatever crushes individuality is despotism.” – John Stuart Mill

45. “Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post as soon as there is no enemy in the field.” – John Stuart Mill

46. “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

47. “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

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

49. “So long as an opinion is strongly rooted in the feelings, it gains rather than loses instability by having a preponderating weight of argument against it.” – John Stuart Mill

50. “The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest-Happiness Principle, holds that 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; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.” – John Stuart Mill

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

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

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

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

55. “A profound conviction raises a man above the feeling of ridicule.” – John Stuart Mill

56. “The worth of the state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.” – John Stuart Mill

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

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

59. “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” – John Stuart Mill

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

What did you learn from these John Stuart Mill quotes?

Now that you have had an opportunity to learn more about John Stuart Mill through his quotes, you have an idea of what kind of man he was.

Whether you agree or disagree with his thoughts, you have to respect that he was strong enough to live out his convictions.

As evidenced by many of his quotes, you can see that John Stuart Mill had no respect for a person that would not stand up for their beliefs or the beliefs of others.

In fact, Mill believed that you should have something to believe in that was more important than your own safety, or that you had not truly lived a free life yourself.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these John Stuart Mill quotes and sayings?

Do you have any other favorite quotes to add?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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