The Individual And Society. Essay

1339 words - 5 pages

The Individual And SocietyMill presents an interesting position on the authority that society maintains over the individual member. Mill places more pressure of conduct on the individual as he opens the door for society to pass judgment on a person who doesn't have sufficient regard for him/herself. Mill contends that there needs to be a clear distinction between where individual liberty takes precedence and where society has the right to intervene. This distinction becomes quite foggy throughout this chapter. Mill's comments on the individual in relation to society in the fourth chapter of On Liberty regarding the well being of the society as a whole are confusing. The beginning of the chapter introduces the need for members of the society to follow a code of conduct. He says this because he believes we are indebted to our society because of our involvement in it.Mill says that people can advise him/her to adopt self-regarding virtues but ultimately, each person has the complete freedom to make their own decision. If a person does not adopt self-regarding qualities, society cannot publicly denounce him/her, although they can hold their own personal negative opinions. These private opinions are what ultimately may hurt a person who is not pursuing what society perceives as his/her own best interests. This is referred to as a natural penalty that is incurred by bad self-regarding interests. In addition to that natural penalty, Mill states that in a harmful self-regarding action the only harmed person is the perpetrator who in effect is giving and receiving his own punishment. He says something quite uncompassionate about the individual when he says, "there is no room for [individuals in the judicial system whose] conduct affects the interests of no persons beside himself." (73) This statement is strange to me because it is saying that if a person is only hurting his or herself then they aren't bothering the society as a whole.However, in later arguments he says, "If he injures his property, he does harm to those who directly or indirectly derived support from it, and usually diminishes, by a greater or less amount, the general resources of the community."(78) Then to further contradict himself he continues, "If he deteriorates his bodily or mental faculties, he not only brings evil upon all who depended on him for any portion of their happiness."(78) It is not possible for the two conditions he has addressed to exist simultaneously. Originally, Mill presented the argument that if a person is only harming himself then there is no reason for them to be punished. However, he then says that if people hurt themselves then, in turn they are hurting society at the same time. Because of this flaw in his cases, I don't believe that he addresses this aspect of individual liberty effectively."Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign." (9) It is my belief that this argument is incorrect. I feel that Mill is denying the effects our...

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