Clear, eloquent and profound, Mill's Utilitarianism has had an enormous influence on moral philosophy and is the idea introduction to ethics.
Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) was a reformer who applied the test of utility to the law and politics of his day. Legislators must aim at 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number,' and Bentham explained in minute detail how they might achieve it. John Stuart Mill (1806-73), whose education at the hands of a Benthamite father had ended in emotional collapse, thought Bentham's ideal of human happiness too narrow and set out to reconcile his utilitarian inheritance with his own passionate commitment to freedom, spontaneity and imagination. In his essays on Bentham and Coleridge, and above all in Utilitarianism, Mill balanced the claims of reason and the imagination, justice and expediency, individuality and social well-being in a system of ethics that is as relevant to today's intellectua and moral dilemmas it was to the nineteenth century's.