a1 University of Warwick
It is usual to interpret Mill's understanding of liberty in terms deriving from his distinction in On Liberty between self-regarding and other-regarding conduct. Granted this distinction and Mill's genuine concern to define and defend it, it remains a relevant question why he attached so much importance to it. This raises a less familiar theme in Mill, namely the inter-connection of self-regarding and other-regarding conduct. An uncommitted reading of the main texts suggests an equivalent value is attached to this. Mill clearly and constantly asserts a close connection between each person's own attempt to improve himself, to cultivate his ‘affections and will’, and the social and political structure in which he acts. Self-regarding virtue and responsible social conduct are interdependent; the quality of each depends upon the quality of the other. A fuller recognition of this and its central place in Mill's revision of Bentham may be of help in examining some of the particular problems raised by recent scholarship on Mill.