SOSC 2350 Note 7
- Monday 17 December @ 9am
o 120 minutes
o Tait McKenzie Centre, East
o Worth 25%
- Case analysis is due on Nov. 20 th
John Stuart Mill 1806-73
- English philosopher and economist; classical liberal theorist
- Liberalism = an ideology and a political tradition, which holds that liberty is
the primary political value
- Liberalism has its roots in the Western Age of enlightenment as represented
in the writings of philosophers like Hobbes, Mills, Locke, Kant and so forth
o Enlightenment put the rational person at the center of the universe
Rational for Kant, since we have a capacity of reason, we have
an obligation to capacitate it.
Simply obedient doesn’t mean to be submissive, but to critique
and understand the laws.
o Kant: an individual is only free if they recognize and exercise their
You can’t behave like a total idiot if you feel guilty for doing it,
because we have reason we know if these things are right or
wrong about these things.
- Focus on appropriate role of law and government in lives of citizens
o Find the minimum, so far as it enables us to excel, reach hopes and
dreams. To realize our full talent.
- Support a free market and a small role of state
- The liberal metaphor is that the world consists of a multitude of independent
individuals who have somehow, at some time, entered into an accord (social
contract) to establish common ties for the common good.
o A collection of like-minded individuals who are like us, voting for the
creation of values and ideals.
o There’s a representation of voices
o Mills: dissenting voice:
There could be an important insight, contribution to society,
To silence it, is to silence the potential for individual
Critical thinking in liberalism is a good thing
It’s an expression of reason,
We’re driven to as these kinds of questions
- Ideology: the ideal and justified way you form too sees the world and
everything you see around you. Key Points
- Rule of law
- Individual Rights
Rule of Law
- Governments should be bound by known principles of law without
distinction in their applications to particular individuals or groups
o Without being racist.
- Legal reasoning should be sharply distinguished from moral and political
deliberation and choice.
o The law needs to be seen as:
Fair, impartial application of law and justice
Regardless of race, gender, faggotry, etc.
o In moral and political deliberation is argument
Application to specific context.
Whenever we make a moral decision, we are making the
o How is this going to affect me?
o For the rule of law to have legitimacy, it needs to be:
Standardized, eternal and without partiality of being squeezed
and broken to certain contexts.
- Legal Formalism: The notion that legal rules from a consistent and complete
whole view/way of life from which the answer to any legal question can be
logically deduced simply by applying the laws to a specific case.
- Judicial reasoning can yield to determine legal results
o Interplay coherent/logical, can be understood and predicted, abides
by its own universal system
- Legal principles and law are not based on any particular group’s conception
of “moral” or “good”
o An intention and hope of the law: that it will be neutral and fair,
because it is neutral.
o This is against the concept that law is based off of culture:
Eurocentric, Christocentric, etc.
- The law should operate at a high level of abstraction that excludes
consideration of the social context. o Fair because it is not attached to/have allegiance to a particular
culture, or set of norms: form, not content)
Fair because it speaks to the form of human interaction, but
not speaking about the content:
Right to education, freedom of conscious, etc.
o What does it mean?
That content isn’t fleshed out.
o Talks about a universal faceless, nameless, genderless human subject
Because of this, it’s there for fair: it’s not communicating or
privileging a specific individual over another.
o It’s unfulfilling, we want to have a sense of belonging.
o There has to be some sense of fairness without obliterating specificity.
- Classical liberal theories focus on the appropriate role of law and
government in the lives of citizens
- Focus on individual freedom as the desirable outcome of a system of law
o Individuality and Freedom of Liberty
- It’s job is to facilitate the security and satisfaction of its citizens, minimal
Mill’s notion of Freedom
- The only freedom that deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in
our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or
impede their efforts to obtain it.
- Key Question: What kind of power can society legitimately exert over the
What do Individuals owe society?
- Although Mill doesn’t subscribe to the notion of a social contract, he does
acknowledge a mutual obligation
- Everyone who receives protection owes a return and each should be bound
to observe a certain line of conduct towards the rest
- Conduct (not thought)
o Not injuring the interests of one another
o Bearing his/her share of the labours and sacrifices for defending
society or its members from injury or molestation.
At the very least, we owe it to other members of society to hear
out their ideas and perspectives, insights, etc. Might contribute
to the changing of our insights and hopes.
- Mill wants to sustain the freedom of thought (conduct interferes with
o Fantasy remains in the realms of fantasy, doesn’t harm anyone. Jurisdiction of Society
- As soon as any part of a person’s conduct affects prejudicially the interests of
others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the question whether the general
welfare will or will not be promoted by interfering with it) the conduct_
becomes open to discussion (not automatically open to the law)
o No people can impose their rules on others
o We never know what the dissenting voice can contribute
- The citizens decide – as a group – whether the values and interests of society
ought to change. No individual has the right to do / impose this on others.
- Enlightenment puts a big responsibility that if we’re all independent agents
that are able to realize our potential, its our job to do so
o With great power comes great responsibility.
The Harm Principle
- Interference with the liberty of an individual is only justified to prevent the
harm to others
- Otherwise, the individual is sovereign and should be allowed to manage
his/her own affairs in any way he or she likes – but stand the consequences
- This includes the right to be self-destructive.
- Appropriate liberties are defined by utilitarian calculation from this basic
principle of human freedom
- “I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be
utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of a man as
a progressive being
- Mill regards liberty as a requirement for human advancement, both