140 John Stuart Mill Quotes

These 140 John Stuart Mill Quotes will change your life for the better! So, if you’re looking for something to keep you in a positive frame of mind, then these quotes are essentials that will steer you to the right direction.

John Stuart Mill believed in happiness, freedom of speech, and complete equality; and for this collection, we’ve gathered some of his most relatable quotes.

Continue reading below.

Best John Stuart Mill Quotes

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

2. “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.”

3. “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.”

4. “Christian morality has all the characters of a reaction; it is, in great part, a protest against Paganism.”

5. “Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.”

6. “Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”

7. “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 a war, is much worse.”

8. “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it.”

9. “It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect.”

10. “In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service.”

11. “It still remains unrecognized, that to bring a child into existence without a fair prospect of being able, not only to provide food for its body, but instruction and training for its mind, is a moral crime, both against the unfortunate offspring and against society; and that if the parent does not fulfil this obligation, the state ought to see it fulfilled, at the charge, as far as possible, of the parent.”

12. “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.”

13. “That principle is that the sole end for which mankind is warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection.”

14. “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness—on the happiness of others, on the improvement of mankind, even on some art or pursuit, followed not as a means, but as itself an ideal end. Aiming thus at something else, they find happiness by the way.”

15. “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.”

16. “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool or the pig is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question.”

17. “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.”

18. “Each is the proper guardian of his own health—whether bodily, or mental, or spiritual.”

19. “Stupidity is much the same all the world over.”

20. “It is not because men’s desires are strong that they act ill; it is because their consciences are weak.”

John Stuart Mill Quotes on Happiness and Individuality

21. “The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life.”

22. “Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortunately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe, without dwelling on it or thinking about it, without either forestalling it in imagination, or putting it to flight by fatal questioning.”

23. “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.”

24. “By happiness is intended pleasure and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.”

25. “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.”

26. “In a world in which there is so much to interest, so much to enjoy, and so much also to correct and improve, everyone who has this moderate amount of moral and intellectual requisites is capable of an existence which may be called enviable; and unless such a person, through bad laws, or subjection to the will of others, is denied the liberty to use the sources of happiness within his reach, he will not fail to find the enviable existence.”

27. “Most persons have but a very moderate capacity of happiness. Expecting in marriage a far greater degree of happiness than they commonly find, and knowing not that the fault is in their own scanty capability of happiness.”

28. “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary 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.”

29. “Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.”

30. “It is easy for any one to imagine an ideal public, which leaves the freedom and choice of individuals in all uncertain matters undisturbed, and only requires them to abstain from modes of conduct which universal experience has condemned.”

31. “The worth of a state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.”

32. “There have been, and may be again, great individual thinkers in a general atmosphere of mental slavery.”

33. “The assumption that we are infallible can justify the suppression of opinions we think false. Ages are as fallible as individuals; every age having held many opinions which subsequent ages have deemed not only false but absurd.”

34. “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

35. “It may almost always be said both of sects and of individuals who derive their morality from religion, that the better logicians they are, the worse moralists.”

36. “The enjoyments of life are sufficient to make it a pleasant thing, when they are taken ‘en passant’, without being made a principal object.”

37. “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.”

38. “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.”

39. “I consider it presumption in anyone to pretend to decide what women are or are not, can or cannot be, by natural constitution.”

40. “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.”

41. “Language is evidently one of the principle instruments or helps of thought; and any imperfection in the instrument, or in the mode of employing it, is confessedly liable, still more than in almost any other art, to confuse and impede the process, and destroy all ground of confidence in the result.”

42. “There is no natural connection between strong impulses and a weak conscience.”

43. “Strong impulses are but another name for energy.”

44. “On the average, a person who cares for other people, for his country, or for mankind, is a happier man than one who does not.”

45. “Command and obedience are but unfortunate necessities of human life—society in equality is its normal state.”

46. “Names have been further distinguished into univocal and equivocal—these, however, are not two kinds of names, but two different modes of employing names.”

47. “The absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.”

48. “The intensest feeling of the beauty of a cloud lighted by the setting sun is no hindrance to my knowing that the cloud is a vapour of water, subject to all the laws of vapours in a state of suspension; and I am just as likely to allow for, and act on, these physical laws whenever there is occasion to do so, as if I had been incapable of perceiving any distinction between beauty and ugliness.”

49. “People think genius is a fine thing if it enables a man to write an exciting poem, or paint a picture. But in its true sense, that of originality in thought and action, though no one says that it is not a thing to be admired, nearly all, at heart, think that they can do very well without it.”

50. “Of two pleasures, if there be one to 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.”

51. “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.”

52. “So true is that unnatural generally means only uncustomary, and that everything which is usual appears natural.”

53. “The time appears to me to have come when it is the duty of all to make their dissent from religion known.”

54. “But these few are the salt of the earth; without them, human life would become a stagnant pool. Not only is it they who introduce good things which did not before exist, it is they who keep the life in those which already existed.”

55. “Unfortunately for the good sense of mankind, the fact of their fallibility is far from carrying the weight in their practical judgement, which is always allowed to it in theory; for while every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility.”

56. “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.”

57. “The art of music is good, for the reason, among others, that it produces pleasure; but what proof is it possible to give that pleasure is good? If, then, it is asserted that there is a comprehensive formula, including all things which are in themselves good, and that whatever else is good, is not so as an end, but as a mean, the formula may be accepted or rejected, but is not a subject of what is commonly understood by proof.”

58. “Capacity for the nobler feelings is in most natures a very tender plant, easily killed, not only by hostile influences, but by mere want of sustenance; and in the majority of young persons it speedily dies away if the occupations to which their position in life has devoted them, and the society into which it has thrown them, are not favorable to keeping that higher capacity in exercise.”

59. “It is part of the irony of life that the strongest feelings of devoted gratitude of which human nature seems to be susceptible, are called forth in human beings towards those who, having the power entirely to crush their earthly existence, voluntarily refrain from using that power.”

60. “One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.”

61. “What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing—the result of forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.”

62. “Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires it to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”

63. “Language is the light of the mind.”

64. “I believe in spectacles, but I think eyes are necessary too.”

65. “That the principle which regulates the existing social relations between the two sexes—the legal subordination of one sex to the other—is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other.”

66. “Even a really superior man almost always begins to deteriorate when he is habitually king of his company; and in his most habitual company the husband who has a wife inferior to him is always so.”

John Stuart Mill Quotes on Freedom of Speech and Liberty

67. “The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement is, being in unceasing antagonism to that disposition to aim at something better than customary, which is called, according to circumstances, the spirit of liberty, or that of progress or improvement.”

68. “The love of power and the love of liberty are in eternal antagonism.”

69. “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited, he must not make himself a nuisance to other people.”

70. “Civil or social liberty—the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual.”

71. “The struggle between liberty and authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history with which we are earliest familiar—particularly in that of Greece, Rome, and England.”

72. “A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.”

73. “After the primary necessities of food and raiment, freedom is the first and strongest want of human nature.”

74. “Human beings are no longer born to their place in life, and chained down by an inexorable bond to the place they are born to, but are free to employ their faculties, and such favorable chances as offer, to achieve the lot which may appear to them most desirable.”

75. “But the true virtue of human beings is fitness to live together as equals; claiming nothing for themselves but what they freely concede to everyone else; regarding command of any kind as an exceptional necessity, and in all cases a temporary one; and preferring, whenever possible, the society of those with whom leading and following can be alternate and reciprocal.”

76. “His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”

77. “A stupid person’s notions and feelings may confidently be inferred from those which prevail in the circle by which the person is surrounded. Not so with those whose opinions and feelings are an emanation from their own nature and faculties.”

78. “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.”

79. “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.”

80. “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.”

81. “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.”

82. “So long as an opinion is strongly rooted in the feelings, it gains, rather than loses, in stability by having a preponderating weight of argument against it.”

83. “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.”

84. “The idea that truth always triumphs over persecution is one of those pleasant falsehoods, which most experience refutes.”

85. “History is teeming with instances of truth put down by persecution. If not put down forever, it may be set back for centuries.”

86. “If any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for ought we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.”

87. “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.”

88. “The real advantage which truth has consists in this—that when an opinion is true, it may be extinguished once, twice or many times, but in the course of ages there will generally found person to rediscover it, until some of its reappearances falls on a time when from favorable circumstances it escapes persecution until it has made such head as to withstand all subsequent attempts to suppress it.”

89. “There is always a need for persons not only to discover new truths, and point out when what were once truths are true no longer, but also to commence new practices, and set the example of more enlightened conduct, and better taste and sense in human life.”

90. “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.”

91. “Experience has taught me that those who give their time to the absorbing claims of what is called society, not having leisure to keep up a large acquaintance with the organs of opinion, remain much more ignorant of the general state either of the public mind, or of the active and instructed part of it, than a recluse who reads the newspapers need be.”

92. “In history, as in traveling, men usually see only what they already had in their own minds; and few learn much from history, who do not bring much with them to its study.”

93. “The test of real and vigorous thinking—the thinking which ascertains truths instead of dreaming dreams—is a successful application to practice.”

94. “Truths are known to us in two ways—some are known directly and of themselves; some through the medium of other truths. The former are the subject of intuition, or consciousness; for the latter, of inference.”

95. “No one but a fool, and only a fool of a peculiar description, feels offended by the acknowledgment that there are others whose opinion, and even whose wish, is entitled to a greater amount of consideration than his.”

96. “Logic is not the science of belief, but the science of proof or evidence.”

97. “There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation.”

98. “Not the violent conflict between parts of the truth, but the quiet suppression of half of it, is the formidable evil. There is always hope when people are forced to listen to both sides; it is when they attend only to one that errors harden into prejudices, and truth itself ceases to have the effect of truth, by being exaggerated into falsehood.”

99. “The general or prevailing opinion in any subject is rarely or never the whole truth; it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied.”

100. “In every respect, the burden is hard on those who attack an almost universal opinion.”

101. “Examples of truths known to us by immediate consciousness are our own bodily sensations and mental feelings. I know directly, and of my own knowledge, that I was vexed yesterday, or that I am hungry today.”

102. “It is with philosophy as with religion—men marvel at the absurdity of other people’s tenets, while exactly parallel absurdities remain in their own.”

103. “We know how easily the uselessness of almost every branch of knowledge may be proved to the complete satisfaction of those who do not possess it.”

104. “It is a bitter thought, how different a thing the Christianity of the world might have been, if the Christian faith had been adopted as the religion of the empire under the auspices of Marcus Aurelius instead of those of Constantine.”

John Stuart Mill Quotes on Wealth, Power, and Government

105. “A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice, a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, is often the means of their regeneration.”

106. “As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when needed, to do battle for the one against the other.”

107. “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.”

108. “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement.”

109. “All women are brought up from the very earliest years in the belief that their ideal of character is the very opposite to that of men; not self-will and government by self-control, but submission and yielding to the control of others.”

110. “Religion, the most powerful of the elements which have entered into the formation of moral feeling, having almost always been governed either by the ambition of a hierarchy, seeking control over every department of human conduct, or by the spirit of Puritanism.”

111. “Protection, therefore, against tyranny of the magistrate is not enough. There needs to be protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose by other means than civil penalties—its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.”

112. “He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them. He must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.”

113. “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth. If wrong, they lose what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”

114. “I did not mean that conservatives are generally stupid; I meant, that stupid persons are generally conservative. I believe that to be so obvious and undeniable a fact that I hardly think any hon. Gentlemen will question it.”

115. “Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric.”

116. “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.”

117. “One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.”

118. “A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.”

119. “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 itself.”

120. “Both teachers and learners go to sleep at their post as soon as there is no enemy in the field.”

121. “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.”

122. “One whose desires and impulses are not his own has no character—no more than a steam-engine has character.”

123. “The tendency has always been strong to believe that whatever received a name must be an entity or being, having an independent existence of its own. And if no real entity answering to the name could be found, men did not for that reason suppose that none existed, but imagined that it was something peculiarly abstruse and mysterious.”

124. “What can the poor public do but apply these instructions, and make their own personal feelings of good and evil, if they are tolerably unanimous in them, obligatory on all the world?”

125. “He who lets the world or his own portion of it choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties.”

126. “The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people—the majority; or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority type people, consequently, may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power.”

127. “Men lose their high aspirations as they lose their intellectual tastes, because they have no time or opportunity for indulging them; and they addicted themselves to inferior pleasures, not because they deliberately prefer them, but because they are either the only ones to which they have access, or the only ones which they are any longer capable of enjoying.”

128. “Since the state must necessarily provide subsistence for the criminal poor while undergoing punishment, not to do the same for the poor who have not offended is to give a premium on crime.”

129. “No slave is a slave to the same lengths, and in so full a sense of the word, as a wife is.”

130. “Foresight of phenomenon and power over them depend on knowledge of their sequences, and not upon any notion we may have formed respecting their origin or inmost nature.”

131. “So much barbarism, however, still remains in the transactions of most civilized nations, that almost all independent countries choose to assert their nationality by having, to their inconvenience and that of their neighbors, a peculiar currency of their own.”

132. “We have had the morality of submission and the morality of chivalry and generosity; the time is now come for the morality of justice.”

133. “It is contrary to reason and experience to suppose that there can be any real check to brutality, consistent with leaving the victim still in the power of the executioner.”

134. “Natural rights, nonsense; natural and imprescriptible rights, rhetorical nonsense, elevated nonsense, nonsense going on stilts.”

135. “Concise mode of expressing the same meaning is that inseparable accidents are properties which are universal to the species, but not necessary to it. Thus, blackness is an attribute of a crow.”

136. “An objection which applies to all conduct can be no valid objection to any conduct in particular.”

137. “All the moralities tell them that it is their nature to live for others, to make complete abnegation of themselves, and to have no life but in their affections.”

138. “Society between equals can only exist on the understanding that the interests of all are to be regarded equally.”

139. “It is not to be expected that there should be agreement about the definition of anything, until there is agreement about the thing itself.”

140. “All errors which he is likely to commit against advice and warning, are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they deem his good.”

Do You Think these John Stuart Mill Quotes Can Lead You to the Path of Happiness?

John Stuart Mill is one of the most noted liberal philosophers and political economists even to this day. He established the theory of utilitarian thought—arguing that the best way to attain happiness for the most number of people is through good actions and good moral behavior. He’s also remembered as a champion of personal liberty, equality for all, and mandatory education.

How do you think these quotes can help you with your goals in life? Which John Stuart Mill quotes were your favorites? Let us know through the comments section below.

Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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