Platonism and penology: James Mill's attempted synthesis

Terence Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The modern science of penology owes much to the English Utilitarians, and to Bentham and his erstwhile disciple James Mill in particular. I argue that James Mill's views on crime and punishment are, contrary to the conventional view, not simply those of a Benthamite Utilitarian; they are, rather, distinctively Platonist. James Mill's penological theory reveals, upon closer examination, a deep and pervasive debt to Plato. The upshot of this discovery is that the roots and rationale of modern penology are older and deeper than is commonly supposed, and that Plato's presence pervades the theory, practice, and justification of that punitive discipline.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-229
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


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