John Stuart Mill: On Liberty The Nature And Limits Of The Power Which Can Be Legitimately Exercised By Society Over The Individual

1553 words - 7 pages

Liberty for John Stuart Mill is defined as "the nature and limits of the power of which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual". Mill argues that society can only use authority over behaviour that harms others; anything else is an end of human freedom. He links liberty to the ability to progress and to avoid social inactivity. Free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. The only time humans or society as a whole can interfere with individual liberty is for self-protection. Mill also notes that the right of liberty does not apply to children, or to what he calls "backward" societies. Liberty holds only when people are capable of learning ...view middle of the document...

They also wanted them to reflect their interests and will. Although, limiting the ruler's power seemed efficient, it was not necessary, since the ruler was accountable to the people and there was no fear of the people tyrannizing himself.Mill then talks about an actual democratic republic which developed in the United States and was accountable to determine that the people do not rule themselves. Rather, powerful people take advantage of this power and exercise it over others. Always the majority will oppress the minority. This is so called the "Tyranny of the majority". However, Mill argues that the power of public opinion has more effect than any new law being implemented. Thus, there must be protection for the public opinion. People must express their ideas for future change in the system. However, Mill argues that society should have control over only those actions that directly affect it and those actions that harm some of its members.Mill also talks about rejecting social interference with individual thought and activity. He is also arguing here about the "Moral Reprobation". Any group could not then punish an individual and treat him/her as an enemy if his actions only affect the sole subject. They could only punish the individual if his actions affect the public. People can express their disapproval with actions they dislike but not alter its behaviour. Individuals could improve themselves if they cooperate with each other instead of just focusing in the wrong actions done by others.Mill ends up his discussion in the justification of liberty by calling it utilitarian. This means the greatest good for the greatest number of people. His defence of liberty is not based on natural right as Locke argues, but based on what is best for the people and what could help them advance and benefit from human liberty. If humans are capable of achieving total cooperation and full human liberty, this process will guide individuals to a better state of moral development in which people will become more rational.In Mill's view of "The Liberty of Though and Discussion" he argues about the issue of whether individuals should be allowed to limit people's opinions. He says that when limiting anyone's expressions of opinions, one's actions are being illegitimate. Even if only one individual has a particular opinion, society will not be justified by silencing him. He says that silencing anyone is wrong since it robs those who disagree with these quiet opinions. Humanity then gets hurt by these silenced opinions and could not gain any knowledge or debate when not commented to others. People should then come up with their own judgements for the benefit of the nation.Mill then points out some arguments about silencing opinions and tries to address the issue by incurring individuals to express their ideas. The first arguments highlights that moral values in fact exist. Some opinions may or may not be valid but they have to be heard in order to be dismissed. Second,...

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