23 Pages

Sex and Sensibility

John Stuart Mill, in his more perceptive moments, realized that sex, or at least the relations of the sexes, was one of the two or three most fundamental problems for human thought and action. Frequently his vision was obscured by his resentment at the Victorian arrangement of sexual relations, leading him to denigrate the whole subject as attracting disproportionate attention. Mill's fundamental methodological position in the social sciences freed him to look at women's character in a fresh light. As a "progressive historicist", if authors may coin the term, Mill was aware that statements about "laws" of human nature and society were, in general, merely provisional and time-bound. Many observers tend to give Harriet Taylor most of the credit for freeing Mill from the typical male presumptions of his time. The difficulties of identifying with such a devalued creature are clear.