Philosophy ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-4-1972


The main problem I undertake to solve is the proper interpretation of what Mill's religious views were. A large number of conflicting and contradictory interpretations has appeared since the publication of Mill's Three Essays on Religion in 1874. And the many publications attending the recent revival of interest in Mill have contained little substantial help respecting this problem. My procedure is first to delineate the dominant modes of thought that influenced Mill during the first thirty years or so of his life. Turning next to Mill's writings specifically on the subject of religion, I discuss his conception of the general problem of religion. This discussion, together with the preceding one, reveal three strands of thought in Mill's religious philosophy: the theistic or rationalistic, the emotive or aesthetic, and the moral. In the third part of the study I concentrate upon the first of these motifs, upon Mill's analysis of the rational grounds for theism. This discussion centers in the design argument for God's existence. In the last part of the study I discuss all three components of Mill's philosophy of religion, criticizing his conclusion that he has shown the design argument possesses sufficient strength satisfactorily to serve as rational grounds for supernatural hopes. I conclude that, in strictness, Mill does not advocate a religion of imaginative hope, as is frequently thought, but a religion of imaginative wish. Finally I argue that Mill's religious views are properly designated as theistic humanism, and that this is their only proper designation.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Paul Frederic Schmidt

Second Committee Member

Hubert Griggs Alexander

Third Committee Member

Brian Edgar O'Neil

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Philosophy Commons