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John Stuart Mill's Harm Principle Essay

1025 words - 4 pages

John Stuart Mill discusses the conception of liberty in many ways. I’d like to focus of his ideas of the harm principle and a touch a little on his thoughts about the freedom of action. The harm principle and freedom on action are just two subtopics of Mill’s extensive thoughts about the conception on liberty. Not only do I plan to discuss and explain each of these parts on the conception of liberty, but I also plan to discuss my thoughts and feelings. I have a few disagreements with Mill on the harm principle; they will be stated and explained. My thoughts and feelings on Mill vary but I’d like to share my negative opinion towards the principle and hope to put it in a different perspective.
The harm principle was published in Mill’s work Of Liberty in 1859. He states, “That 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. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant (978).” This means that government is not able to control peoples’ actions unless they are causing harm to other individuals. He also states that if you are causing harm to yourself the government shall not involve themselves. Different forms of harm are applicable, such as physical harm, property damage and emotional harm. Mill also explains that harm, in whatever form to others, can be the result of an action or the result of inaction. Both of these are a violation to the harm principle and the government has the right to step in; it does not matter whether harm was caused by the result of your action or inaction to the situation. The harm principle’s purpose is to be able to only let government interfere with human society when one is causing harm to another, therefore limiting government control. Mill’s harm principle grants the human society to do whatever they want as long as there is no harm to others. The government’s main duty according to the Harm Principle is to keep society functional and civil.
My main disagreement with Mill’s Harm Principle is that indirect harm does not apply. Mill writes, “In many cases, an individual, in pursuing a legitimate object, necessarily and therefore legitimately causes pain or loss to others, or intercepts a good which they had a reasonable hope of obtaining (1009).” Who is he to say that while pursuing an object pain or loss is necessary at all? The definition of necessary, according to Webster’s Dictionary, is absolutely essential or needed to achieve a certain result or affect. I do not think that in any way it would be necessary to cause harm while trying to achieve a goal. There are so many ways to go about to achieve a goal without causing harm to someone. However, if for example, you and a coworker are in position for a promotion, you are both fighting against each other for the position, you receive the...

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