Mill on liberty. On Liberty Summary 2019-01-08

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On Liberty

mill on liberty

The question remains as to which sorts of pleasures are of higher quality than others. Having said that Individuality is the same thing with development, and that it is only the cultivation of individuality which produces, or can produce, well-developed human beings, I might here close the argument: for what more or better can be said of any condition of human affairs, than that it brings human beings themselves nearer to the best thing they can be? No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner. Mill asserts that the reason why liberty of opinion is so often in danger is that in practice people tend to be confident in their own rightness, and excluding that, in the infallibility of the world they come in contact with. Such a precaution, for example, as that of labelling the drug with some word expressive of its dangerous character, may be enforced without violation of liberty: the buyer cannot wish not to know that the thing he possesses has poisonous qualities. The Socratic dialectics, so magnificently exemplified in the dialogues of Plato, were a contrivance of this description. We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.

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On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

mill on liberty

There must be discussion, to show how experience is to be interpreted. To say that one person's desires and feelings are stronger and more various than those of another, is merely to say that he has more of the raw material of human nature, and is therefore capable, perhaps of more evil, but certainly of more good. Every truth which men of narrow capacity are in earnest about, is sure to be asserted, inculcated, and in many ways even acted on, as if no other truth existed in the world, or at all events none that could limit or qualify the first. By way of example, in the above argument, the conclusion must already have been asserted in the —the proposition that all men are mortal must be said to include the proposition that Socrates is mortal if the argument is to be valid. Yet there are many cases clear enough and grave enough to justify that exception. This would be nothing new in Mahomedan countries.

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Mill, John Stuart. 1869. On Liberty

mill on liberty

To characterize any conduct whatever towards a barbarous people as a violation of the law of nations, only shows that he who so speaks has never considered the subject. The offence charged was not that of criticizing institutions, or the acts or persons of rulers, but of circulating what was deemed an immoral doctrine, the lawfulness of Tyrannicide. When those regions afterwards fell under the dominion of Mahomedan conquerors, the Parsees obtained from them a continuance of indulgence, on condition of refraining from pork. It is the duty of society to warn others about a person who is harmful to others; coercion is allowed when it is meant to assist others in the retention of their liberty. Mill is one of the few political philosophers ever to serve in government as an elected official. In 1865, he was elected as the Member of Parliament for Westminster for the Liberal Party.


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SparkNotes: On Liberty: Chapter 2, Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion (Part 1)

mill on liberty

In this first chapter, one can see Mill's strong aversion to conformity, which will play an important role in this essay. Even after the era of Luther, wherever persecution was persisted in, it was successful. If we are warranted in believing that induction is in general a good way of reasoning only to the extent that our past inductions are themselves taken to have been good inferences, then the question remains how those inductions can be warranted forms of inference cf. When we consider either the history of opinion, or the ordinary conduct of human life, to what is it to be ascribed that the one and the other are no worse than they are? The preceding instances may be objected to, although unreasonably, as drawn from contingencies impossible among us: opinion, in this country, not being likely to enforce abstinence from meats, or to interfere with people for worshipping, and for either marrying or not marrying, according to their creed or inclination. Strange that they should imagine that they are not assuming infallibility when they acknowledge that there should be free discussion on all subjects which can possibly be doubtful, but think that some particular principle or doctrine should be forbidden to be questioned because it is so certain, that is, because they are certain that it is certain. And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details. Rather, Mill claims, the notion of moral wrong is connected to that of punishment.


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Mill, John Stuart. 1869. On Liberty

mill on liberty

Nor is his faith in this collective authority at all shaken by his being aware that other ages, countries, sects, churches, classes, and parties have thought, and even now think, the exact reverse. People who defend this mode of treating benefactors, can not be supposed to set much value on the benefit; and I believe this view of the subject is mostly confined to the sort of persons who think that new truths may have been desirable once, but that we have had enough of them now. There are no objections, and no answers to objections. How it may be asked can any part of the conduct of a member of society be a matter of indifference to the other members? Oftentimes, the question of what society dislikes or likes wrongly supersedes the question of whether society should implement these preferences as laws. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner. We shall discuss this claim further below. They were essentially a negative discussion of the great questions of philosophy and life, directed with consummate skill to the purpose of convincing any one who had merely adopted the commonplaces of received opinion, that he did not understand the subject — that he as yet attached no definite meaning to the doctrines he professed; in order that, becoming aware of his ignorance, he might be put in the way to attain a stable belief, resting on a clear apprehension both of the meaning of doctrines and of their evidence.

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Mill

mill on liberty

Mill was aware that pain can have a harmful effect on individuality, when it warps our actions and hence warps the development of our individuality. These interferences are objectionable, not as infringements on the liberty of the producer or seller, but on that of the buyer. Nineteenth-Century Contexts: An Interdisciplinary Journal. An opinion that corn-dealers are starvers of the poor, or that private property is robbery, ought to be unmolested when simply circulated through the press, but may justly incur punishment when delivered orally to an excited mob assembled before the house of a corn-dealer, or when handed about among the same mob in the form of a placard. Mill was a liberal thinker and his thoughts shocked a world where democratic governments were seen as the utmost in political freedom.

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On Liberty Summary

mill on liberty

John Stuart Mill: A Biography. The greatness of England is now all collective: individually small, we only appear capable of anything great by our habit of combining; and with this our moral and religious philanthropists are perfectly contented. The aim, therefore, of patriots was to set limits to the power which the ruler should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty. They may be proofs of any amount of folly, or want of personal dignity and self-respect; but they are only a subject of moral reprobation when they involve a breach of duty to others, for whose sake the individual is bound to have care for himself. Coercion is ruled out — engagement is most certainly not. They were intended to make sure that the pupil understood his own opinion, and by necessary correlation the opinion opposed to it, and could enforce the grounds of the one and confute those of the other. It could be of important note that Mill himself, was a powerful member of the British government as the chief civil servant of the East India Company which controlled India, then a British colony.

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On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

mill on liberty

Absolute princes, or others who are accustomed to unlimited deference, usually feel this complete confidence in their own opinions on nearly all subjects. The superior worth of simplicity of life, the enervating and demoralizing effect of the trammels and hypocrisies of artificial society, are ideas which have never been entirely absent from cultivated minds since Rousseau wrote; and they will in time produce their due effect, though at present needing to be asserted as much as ever, and to be asserted by deeds, for words, on this subject, have nearly exhausted their power. Now we may be well assured that the case was not thus, but far otherwise, with the early Christians. But those who thus satisfy themselves, do not perceive that the assumption of infallibility is merely shifted from one point to another. Nevertheless there lay in Rousseau's doctrine, and has floated down the stream of opinion along with it, a considerable amount of exactly those truths which the popular opinion wanted; and these are the deposit which was left behind when the flood subsided. That mankind owe a great debt to this morality, and to its early teachers, I should be the last person to deny; but I do not scruple to say of it, that it is, in many important points, incomplete and one-sided, and that unless ideas and feelings, not sanctioned by it, had contributed to the formation of European life and character, human affairs would have been in a worse condition than they now are.

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John Stuart Mill (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

mill on liberty

Mill Revisited: Biographical and Political Explorations, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. I am aware that there is not, in this country, any intolerance of differences of opinion on most of these topics. This form of tyranny is extremely detrimental to the cultivation of vital individuality. Those in whose eyes this reticence on the part of heretics is no evil, should consider in the first place, that in consequence of it there is never any fair and thorough discussion of heretical opinions; and that such of them as could not stand such a discussion, though they may be prevented from spreading, do not disappear. This is a form of the argument for religious intolerance, sufficiently remarkable not to be passed without notice. In a case of such necessity, and so directly in the line of their duty, something less than infallibility may, it is maintained, warrant, and even bind, governments, to act on their own opinion, confirmed by the general opinion of mankind. Utilitarianism, X: 211 The claim is one purely relating to value ordering—that there can exist experiences h and l, such that h is more valuable than l, despite l containing an equal or greater quantity of pleasure than h.

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