Wisdom of the Moderns: Mill’s Analytical Path to Happiness

In “A Crisis in My Mental History,” John Stuart Mill relates a nervous breakdown he experienced when he was twenty years old, and his emergence from it. He saw his crisis as a crisis that all of mankind was headed towards, and his solution as a solution for everyone. Although his account gives several reasons he was able to escape from his depression, the reasons he provides do not seem to answer his initial questions.

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Wisdom of the Moderns: Smith’s Account of Evil

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith attempts to explain the processes by which people come to acquire moral sentiments. The primary element he identifies is the process of sympathy. Smith defines this phenomenon as a capacity to imagine ourselves in the position of others. He asserts that the method by which people judge the propriety of their own actions is by imagining a “spectator” who ought to be impartial (III.I.6). We consider how others would imagine themselves in our position, and this informs us of the correctness of our own behavior. However, says Smith, many people do not listen to their impartial spectator, “foolishly and weakly” preferring self-deceit (III.I.91).

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Political Philosophy: Plato’s Just City

In his Republic, Plato sets forth a vision of a Just City that he considers to be radical and unlikely to occur. This is because his plan includes elements such as the equality of women, the abolition of the family, the disregard for the happiness of the rulers, and the institution of the philosopher-kings. Despite these difficulties, Plato always maintains that the just city is, in principle, possible.

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