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A Rhetorical Analysis Of "On Liberty" By John Stuart Mill

1642 words - 7 pages

A Rhetorical Analysis of "On Liberty"John Stuart Mill, an English philosopher and a political economist, had an important part in forming liberal thought in the 19th century. Mill published his best-known work, On Liberty, in 1859. This foundational book discusses the concept of liberty. It talks about the nature and the limits of the power performed by society over an individual. The book also deals with the freedom of people to engage in whatever they wish as long as it does not harm other persons.In On Liberty, Mill employs a combination of formal and informal tones by developing complex ideas through many levels of meanings in form of clear expressions. Mill's use of contrasting metaphors in the paragraphs about the way human beings should develop shows both kinds of tone. The author also employs the figurative language to appeal to his intended audience, both the specialists and non-specialists in philosophy.Mill writes this argument to appeal to the audience who entirely agrees with him. He approaches his thesis by attacking the conservatives as well as the misguided progressives. He refutes any possible opposite idea to his thesis. Mill uses the phrases such as "no one's idea," "no one should assert," "it would be absurd," "nobody denies" in order to confirm the accuracy of what he talks about and show that no other way of thinking can be accurate. Mill purposely uses these literary techniques because he writes for people who agree with him, otherwise, he would make his audience feel uneasy, or even angry.Mill's intended audience can be specialists or non-specialists in the study of liberty. This can be proved by the author's use of parenthetical phrases and asides in many parts of his essay to clarify and build up the ideas. "Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying," Mill states, "[T]he first in importance surely is man himself" (Mill 87). Perfecting and beautifying the works requires knowledge, personal experience, and skill, which a machine never has. By showing that a machine cannot replace a man, Mill infers the comparative worth of human beings and the difference between a man and a machine. From this, Mill demonstrates the precision in his argument. Other parenthetical asides in the essay, such as "the privilege and proper condition of a human being, arrived at the maturity of his faculties, to use and interpret experience…" (Mill 86), or "a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides" (Mill 87), show Mill's intention to help his audience, especially the non-specialists, to clearly understand the essay. By doing this, he also strengthens the academic tone of the essay to appeal to the specialists in his field.Mill's figurative language in On Liberty appeals to the imagination of the audience. His metaphors provide common ground for his audience to catalyze comprehension of the topic."Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do...

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