Liberty of Thought and Discussion

Topics: John Stuart Mill, Political philosophy, Liberalism Pages: 6 (2269 words) Published: June 6, 2013
“The liberty of thought and discussion”


John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill:
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, economist, great liberal (or libertarian), moral and political theorist, and administrator, was the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century. His views are of continuing significance, and are generally recognized to be among the deepest and certainly the most effective defenses of empiricism and of a liberal political view of society and culture. The overall aim of his philosophy is to develop a positive view of the universe and the place of humans in it, one which contributes to the progress of human knowledge, individual freedom and human well-being. His views are not entirely original, having their roots in the British empiricism of John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume, and in the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham. But he gave them a new depth, and his formulations were sufficiently articulate to gain for them a continuing influence among a broad public. Mill's most famous work in social and political philosophy, and still one of the most influential works on human rights and freedom, is his book-length essay entitled On Liberty, which we will now summarize, using Mill's own section headings.

Introduction of the essay:
The main point of this essay is to argue that the only justification for society limiting the liberty of an individual, whether by the government or the force of public opinion, is to prevent harm to others. If the purpose instead is his own good, or some other goal, then only persuasion and non-coercive means can be justified. Mill believed that an individual had two aspects to his life 1) The individual had two aspects which concerned him alone 2) The social because every individual was also an integral part of society. The actions of the individual may similarly be divided into two categories 1)self-regarding and2)other regarding with regard to actions in which he alone is concerned, his liberty of action is complete and should not be regulated by the state and society, his actions can justifiably be regulated by the state or society.. The essay also reflects Mill's passionate belief that individuality is something that should be protected and nurtured. As such, the essay illustrates his disgust at how he believed society squelches nonconformity. On Liberty is just one example of the social and political writings of Mill other works of his include, Considerations on Representative Government Major Themes:

The Struggle between Liberty and Authority
Individuals have often felt as though their rights were being infringed upon by an overzealous government and have fought for the ability to have their government act they wish. Individual liberties have been trampled on by various governments and this fear of authority has resulted in democracies, where the majority of the people get to decide what actions are best for the state. Tyranny of the Majority

With democracies, it is supposed that the will of the people is the impetus for the government's actions and that people are participating in a type of self-governing state. However, says Mill, this is not true, democracies enable a tyranny of the majority where public opinion stomps out the voices of the minority groups and pays their needs and opinions no mind. Mill thinks that this tyranny is the gravest sort, and seeks to find the maximum amount that society can impose itself on an individual while still maintaining personal liberty. Self-Regarding Actions and Autonomy

A person whose actions only affect himself is not eligible to be coerced or punished for his deeds. According to Mill, it is not society's duty or even its right to protect a person from him or her. The only punishment that can result from a self-regarding action is the weight of individual public opinion and the consequence of the actual action itself. The Veracity of Public Opinion

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