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POLS 2900 Mar. 12- Mill's On Liberty.doc

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Political Science
POLS 2900
Stephen Newman

1 POLS 2900 Tuesday, March 12, 2013 MILL’S ON LIBERTY The Harm Principle • Speech itself cannot violate the harm principle unless it causes direct harm to another • Dislike is not enough to interfere with someone’s rights to liberty. As long as it does not cause harm, then it should be left alone. Mill believes there are utilitarian justifications for individuality: one is the ability to diversify opinions to arrive at truth On Liberty • Children are taught what others have learned. But Mill says that it is the privilege of individuals to use and experience knowledge in their own way. Once children grow up, they can use what they know and inform their own understanding. • Those who choose to imitate does not live a fruitful life experience. Those who choose their own paths get to experience full capacity. • Mill believes a lot of blame goes to Christianity- which he argues encourages humans to submit to God • There is this assumption of “they say”, but who are they? Mill sees that people are always under this assumption of all the rest. He is concerned by conformity. o Mill thinks it is important to fight conformity- society is better off when people think for themselves, as that is the only way to progress. • We do not all grow up to be the same person, and it is better to build upon our own capacities and express that in us • Mill does not expect most people to stand out. He is honest in appreciating that most people will follow the path that others have carved out. • Granting liberty in the way that Mill wants us to is not going to produce a society of experimenters and eccentrics. But it will allow a small group of persons, persons of genius, the freedom and latitude to live their lives in free and interesting ways. And it is these individuals who are most likely to produce useful social innovations. It is necessary to preserve the free soil in which they grow. They must be allowed to live their own lives outside the path of tradition. Not to say that Mill does not say that it is not important for all to live own lives. However, he simply recognizes that most people are not so adventurous. • Mill does not claim that the talented few should govern or that the few geniuses should enjoy exalted lives in society • Mill recognizes modern society is unlike earlier times. In earlier times, the individual was a power in himself. He means that individual persons were distinguished based on unique characteristics and were placed in various parts of society. o He thinks one of the biggest changes in his own time was that personal influence was pretty much gone o There is the influence of masses • We still use the term “mass public”. It is like a crowd
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