Like many of the philosophers who preceded him in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Mill saw the individual as sacred and as taking precedence over the state, in the sense that the state exists for the sake of individuals rather than the other way around. However, unlike Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Mill’s interest in the individual was not as the individual might exist in a state of nature, before entering into society.
Instead, Mill imagined the value of the individual as he or she would become with the proper education in a well-structured society. He sees the individual as filled with various potentials, and it is only in conjunction with society that an individual may develop these potentials so that he or she may benefit the community that he or she inhabits. Mill advocates the active life so that individuals may use their various gifts and talents to promote happiness for the greatest number. He sees the active life for the individual as morally superior to a passive one.