John Stuart Mill: Strong Feelings Strongly Controlled by a Conscientious Will

Although I have been Associate Chair for Administration and Director of our Master of Applied Economics Program, I am saved from some of the more onerous leadership and decision-making roles within my department because I am considered a bit unpredictable and a bit too much outside valued boxes. (There is also a tendency to consider someone who has a generally has a positive outlook on people and situations as a less serious person.) In On Liberty, Chapter III: “Of Individuality, as One of the Elements of Well-Being,” paragraph 16, John Stuart Mill extols the virtues of being, in modern slang, a bit of a “loose cannon” and a bit of an “Energizer Bunny”: 

As is usually the case with ideals which exclude one-half of what is desirable, the present standard of approbation produces only an inferior imitation of the other half. Instead of great energies guided by vigorous reason, and strong feelings strongly controlled by a conscientious will, its result is weak feelings and weak energies, which therefore can be kept in outward conformity to rule without any strength either of will or of reason. Already energetic characters on any large scale are becoming merely traditional. There is now scarcely any outlet for energy in this country except business. The energy expended in this may still be regarded as considerable. What little is left from that employment, is expended on some hobby; which may be a useful, even a philanthropic hobby, but is always some one thing, and generally a thing of small dimensions. The greatness of England is now all collective: individually small, we only appear capable of anything great by our habit of combining; and with this our moral and religious philanthropists are perfectly contented. But it was men of another stamp than this that made England what it has been; and men of another stamp will be needed to prevent its decline.

Update: On the Facebook version of this post, David Yves offers this comment:

“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” -Bertrand Russell. If only we didn’t have to fear.