Liberty, Part I
JOHN STUART MILL
o appeals to utility in defending free will
wrote On Liberty
o “the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately
exercised by society over the individual”
o mentioned the need to restrict both state and society (public
opinion) in their ability to shape conduct
Stages of Liberty
history of relations between individuals and authority
throughout history, the meanings of liberty and tyranny have changed
4 stages of social development:
1. Contest Between Subjects and Government
presumes that the two sides are antagonistic
In this case, liberty means protection of society against tyranny of
protection = political rights, constitutional checks
2. Development of Democratic Government
In this case, liberty means popular self-rule.
rulers are the ruled, so (it was thought) there was no need to
limit government power
3. Recognition that Political Majority can be Tyrannical over Political
In this case, liberty means a democratic government with
protection for minorities.
bill of basic rights
4. Threat of Social Tyranny: Tyranny of Prevailing Opinion and Feeling
oppressive, soul-enslaving customs and prejudices (popular
In this case, liberty means individual spontaneity.
Mill’s Question: When is it legitimate to interfere in peoples’ lives?
rejects appeals to custom, tradition, or popular morality
seeks a principled answer The Liberty Principle: The only purpose for which power can be rightfully
exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to
prevent harm to others.
should be free to do whatever you want unless you are harming someone
society can never coerce individuals for their own good
Mill’s Radical Principle: A person’s freedom to act may be limite