Mill’s place in history is assured. In the drama of events he played a significant role through his support of radical causes, above all the cause of sexual equality. In the history of ideas he has a star part. In furthering the legacy of the Enlightenment, in the development of a scientific approach to moral and social questions, he was a central figure of European significance. His influence upon contemporary and later positivism and radicalism was indisputable, even when that influence took the form of a reaction against him. He made much of his absorption and incorporation of the countercurrents of Romanticism and historism, and his dialectic between Enlightenment and Romanticism holds an enduring fascination, giving a unique insight into some of the intellectual dilemmas of his age. But here, the modern reader must take care not to be misled. Mill’s incorporation of a historical, sociological and hermeneutic approach never went as far as he suggested; in spite of his claims, he failed to achieve a synthesis of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries because he refused to accept some of the deeper insights of contemporary European (especially German) thought. Where the fundamentals were concerned, he remained closer to his father and Bentham than he was prepared to admit.
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