John Stuart Mill On Liberty Essay

2027 words - 8 pages

12."The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will is to prevent harm to others." Discuss.John Stuart Mill's essay "On Liberty" explains to us the importance of liberty in this life; he goes through all the important issues involved with liberty in order for us to understand his general principles. The principle that concerns us in this essay is the harm principle; that is that the only time society should interfere in a persons liberty is when their actions interfere with others. I will go through all the relevant issues used in Mill's essay and this will explain Mill's theory and how I believe his theory is correct overall and an excellent maxim for life. Mill's "one simple principle" is elaborated on throughout his essay, through chapters on thought, discussion and action, to deliver his principle on liberty: that the liberty of the individual should be absolute except in the case where that liberty did harm to another. Mill goes on to declare liberty, not truth, paramount. It is liberty that society must seek and it is liberty that is the important element of individuality.Mill begins in his introductory chapter by explaining what he is writing about, he is concerned with the amount of control that society can exert over an individuals liberty. Mankind has always been concerned with the amount the government control us, in absolute governments our liberty was almost completely controlled by the state. However, Mill feels that the installing of democracy in the modern world does not solve the problem. He writes of "the tyranny of the majority", Mill feels we should protect ourselves not just from the tyranny of the state itself, but also of the prevailing opinions of the majority, which are often imposed on us by the majority. He says that the opinions of the majority become the rules and laws of the land and it becomes unacceptable to do any different than what the majority think is right. Mill then goes on to state his principle, he says that the important thing here is self-protection; the only purpose for which power can be exerted over us is when harm is done onto another. Our own good is not to be taken into account. Therefore Mill theory is that "the only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others". This is the main message Mill wants to explain to us throughout this essay, he believes that the individual is sovereign, liberty is the most important thing and is the thing we must hold up above everything else. I will come back to this in detail later, but first we must go through the second and third chapters of this essay to fully understand Mill's view on liberty.The first idea I will discuss is Mill's views on thought and discussion. Mill believes that everyone should have a right to his or her own opinion, this sounds like a simple idea, but in practice it is more difficult. He says that each mans opinion is as...

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