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John Stuart Mill and the Art of Life$
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Ben Eggleston, Dale Miller, and David Weinstein

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195381245

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195381245.001.0001

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Mill, Life as Art, and Problems of Self-Description in an Industrial Age

Mill, Life as Art, and Problems of Self-Description in an Industrial Age

(p.264) 11 Mill, Life as Art, and Problems of Self-Description in an Industrial Age
John Stuart Mill and the Art of Life

Colin Heydt

Oxford University Press

This chapter notes Mill's puzzling but frequent suggestion that life should be seen as a work of art and argues that the attractiveness of this metaphor arises from Victorian anxieties about industrialization, urbanization, and their effects, which included selfishness and despair. It goes on to analyze what it means for Mill to think of life as art, drawing particularly on his writings on aesthetics and on Comte's Religion of Humanity. These writings show that a key to turning one's life into a work of art is redescribing it as part of something larger, nobler, and longer lasting (e.g., an idealized humanity). The chapter concludes by identifying some of the causes (personal and social) that sustain and make these new self-descriptions possible and by showing how this analysis illuminates Mill's thought and brings out unfamiliar characteristics of it.

Keywords:   John Stuart Mill, aesthetics, Religion of Humanity, life as art, self-description

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