Understanding John Stuart Mill is the third book in the Smart Student's Guide to the Philosophical Classics serie. Like the previous two books in the philosophical classics series, it is a companion to the original work (Second Treatise of Government) for beginning philosophy and political science students. Previous guides have been to Plato's Socratic dialogues, the Republic and John Locke's Second Treatise of Government. These guides are intended for students who will be reading these classic works for the first time, or for those who would like to achieve a better understanding.
I use the words "smart students" not to designate high IQ, but to refer to students who want to not only understand Mill's central ideas, but also to learn how to think critically about issues in ethics and political philosophy.
John Stuart Mill is generally regarded as a genius and this is displayed in his nineteenth century prose. But my 50+ years of experience teaching Mill and other classic philosophers made me aware early in my career that beginning students would greatly benefit from a guide to help them understand the lengthy paragraphs and complicated arguments. In these guides I break down the books into short sections and explain, in clear twenty-first century English, the details of the ideas, theories and arguments contained therein.
Each chapter concludes with a section on questions for thought and discussion. The questions will stimulate classroom and study group discussion, and some provide good ideas for term papers.
This approach to philosophical classics has worked in my classrooms and I am certain it will work for you and all those who want to understand John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism and On Liberty.