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The Idea That Each Person In Society Must Be Free And Able To Express His/Her Opinions Taken From "On Liberty" By John Stuart Mill

1153 words - 5 pages

The Struggle Between Liberty and AuthorityWhere would our world be without the individualistic ideas of John Stuart Mill? Would we all be forced into false thinking by our government? Would we still believe that the world was flat? In the absence of ideas from original, bold thinkers in society that stand up for their beliefs in pursuit of their dreams, our society would be at a stand still. Often times, citizens feel that their individual liberties and their rights are being violated by an overzealous government. Mill recognized this problem and published an essay titled "On Liberty", in 1859, which spoke of the idea that each person in society must be free and able to express his/her opinions. Contrary to Mill's beliefs, Edmund Burke, another political philosopher, stated that to have order and less chaos, a monarchial government is necessary. He argued that there would be less confusion and a clearer understanding of ethics between what is right and wrong. Although Edmund Burke had a few strong points in stating the benefits of a non-liberal society, John Stuart Mill's liberal ideology was immensely more justified and produced noticeable social progress.In opposition to Burke's argument, Mill argues that individuality is a must for social improvement. In his essay titled "On Liberty", Mills states, "If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind" (Mill 68). His very liberal essay was sparked by the feeling Mill and his wife, Harriet Taylor, constantly expressed in their letters to one another: that they lived in a society where bold and adventurous individuals were becoming all too rare. America was a prosperous middle-class society, and Mill feared that it was also a society that cared nothing for individual liberty.As a nineteenth century philosopher and the foremost spokesman for liberalism, Mill believed that for man to be truly free, the rights and liberties of the individual must be guaranteed and the person must have the freedom to do what he wants as long as he does not harm others. In the past, danger lied in the fact that the monarchs held most, if not all power at the expense of the common people who struggled to gain liberty from the governmental powers. John Stuart Mill states that it is man's ability to rationalize and make decisions on the means and goals of his actions that set him apart from other living beings. Man is not perfect and by making his own mistakes and judgments, he will learn and better himself from it. By pointing out man's unpredictable and original nature, Mill portrays individualism as being the ideal towards which every society should strive. However, to reach this ideal status, freedom must be guaranteed by the state: The freedom to express opinions and desires and to examine them. The aim of improving each individual is to...

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