On Liberty and Other Essays

On Liberty and Other Essays

Collected here in a single volume for the first time, On Liberty, Utilitarianism, Considerations on Representative Government, and The Subjection of Women show John Stuart Mill applying his liberal utilitarian philosophy to a range of issues that remain vital today - the nature of ethics, the scope and limits of individual liberty, the merits of and costs of democratic government, and the place of women in society. In his Introduction John Gray describes these essays as applications of Mill's doctrine of the Art of Life, as set out in A System of Logic. Using the resources of recent scholarship, he shows Mill's work to be far richer and subtler than traditional interpretations allow.

Reviews of the On Liberty and Other Essays

The ideal utilitarian looks at results only, which is in blatant opposition to any form of individuality which must rest on principles of knowing thyself; hence, Mill merely superimposes Enlightenment posturing on top of empiricist/positivist ethics, which, since it only takes into account consequences, and one of the most inscrutable at that, happiness, one must insist that Mill did not read his Humboldt, for the latter says somewhere that those who look to make everyone happy desire them to be machines for one's purposes - precisely the predicament of individuals who are branded as consumers, who are, in effect, nothing but machines for corporate execs.

If Mill was writing in a modern style then the essays would be much shorter! I often like Gray's writing, and I know he does not always make it easy for the reader - but this introduction is hard work.

After several months, Ive finally slogged through these four essays by John Stuart Mill: On Liberty, Utilitarianism, Considerations on Representative Government and The Subjection of Women. I think Mills final essay arguing for equality for women is the most passionately argued and (as a result?) the most engaging to read. As I understand it, Mills argues: 1.People should have complete liberty concerning themselves a.This does not extend to children or citizens of backwards states, where paternalism is more appropriate b.Liberty over myself does not mean complete power over my spouse or children, a very progressive thought for the eighteenth century. 2.People can be compelled by the state to participate in certain actions for the social good, such as participate in the military, testify in court, and to not act negligently towards the well-being of others so Mills was not a rabid libertarian 3.He is a vehement defender of freedom of discussion and the marketplace of ideas. Mills is egalitarian genius can come from anywhere - but not democratic the masses are irresponsible with power and average citizen is mediocre in thought. e.Laws are equally as important as social norms in promoting this liberty 4.Mills believes societal laws should have limits, but it not entirely clear himself where the line should be drawn a.Society has jurisdiction when ones actions begins to harm others b.Again - laws, social norms and societal obligations should exist. But in terms of giving back, society can only suggest and nudge, not compel c.There need to be limits on the power of society over its people, he recognizes the slippery slope of giving purchase to the regulation of conduct, and implores that it not be enlarged to enforce morality or opinion of the majority. d.Because I am right is not sufficient to give one power over another e.There is a lot of danger in expanding the justification of when a society can interfere. 83 Though society is not founded upon a contract, and though no good purchase is answered by inventing a contract in order to deduce social obligations from it, everyone who receives the protection of society owes a return for the benefit, and the fact of living in a society renders it indispensable that each should be bound to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest. 92 let not society pretends that it needs the power to issue commands and enforce obedience in the personal concerns of individuals in which the decision ought to rest with those who are to abide by the consequences. 93 But the opinion of the simple majority, imposed as a law on the minority, on questions of self-regarding conducts, are as likely to be wrong as right; it means at best some peoples opinion of what is good or bad for other people; while very often it does not mean even that not considering the benefit of those they are censuring and considering their own preference. 116 The almost despotic power of husbands over wives needs not to be enlarged upon here, because nothing more is needed for the complete removal of the evil, than the wives should have the same rights, and should receive the protection of the law in the same manner, as all other persons. 121 The objections of government interference, when it is not such as to involve infringement of liberty, may be of three kinds 1 when the thing is likely to have been done better by individuals than by the government 2 though individuals may not do the particular thing so well, on the average, as officers in government, it is nevertheless desirable that it may be done by them as a means of their own mental education jury trial, municipal institutions, voluntary philanthropy trains citizens, political education in the responsibilities of a free people accustoming them to the comprehension of joint interests. 126 To determine the point at which evils begin, or rather at which they begin to predominate over the benefits attending the collective application of force of society, is one of the most difficult and complicated questions in the art of government the ideal to be kept in view: the greatest dissemination of power consistent with efficiency; but the greatest possible centralization of information and diffusion of it from the center. 189 When we call anything a persons right, we mean that he has a valid claim on society to protect him in the possession of it, either by the force of law, or by that of education and opinion.

#jsmonliberty As readers of the blog and book review published on Good Reads you will also be able to see my own impressions and observations. #jsmonliberty This first observation has been clear to me since a young age, even as I child I understood that those who make the rules dont always have to follow them. Self-government is an ideal and a myth that is fed to the lower classes by the upper classes but the actual levers of power are kept far away from those that are deemed too un-educated or otherwise in capable of any real control. #jsmonliberty This speaks to the idea that certain things be controlled for your own good. However, for my liberty to be curtailed for the good of the community is a completely different argument. #jsmonliberty This is perhaps the best critique I have ever read against suppression of new and innovative thought. Its not that certain free thinkers are persecuted for their new and controversial ideas but that other, less confident and less developed free thinkers are cowed into suppressing their own thoughts for fear of persecution themselves. Mill goes on to state that the true governing maxim of most of mankind is the custom of his nation, class or profession. How far we have fallen from the original Heavenly Kingdom mindset of the early Christ-followers into an earthly Kingdom mindset dictated not by the maxims of the New Testament but by philosophies inherited from a much more recent time? #jsmonliberty This harkens back to my early observation of preventing harm to others and the distinction between doing things for your own good. #jsmonliberty Although the governing body is capable of administering all function of society it is not a good idea to allow it to do so.

  • English

  • Philosophy

  • Rating: 4.05
  • Pages: 640
  • Publish Date: March 5th 1998 by Oxford University Press
  • Isbn10: 0192833847
  • Isbn13: 9780192833846