John Stuart Mill- On liberty and subjection of women
• Introductory CH1
• Civil or social liberty
• Nature and limits of power that can be legitimately exercised by society over
• Struggle between liberty and authority is the most conspicuous feature in the
portions of history with which we are earliest familiar, particularly in that of
Greece, Rome, and England. But in old times this contest was between subjects,
or some classes of subjects, and the Government. (7)
• By liberty, was meant protection against the tyranny of the political rulers (7)
• the leader did not govern by the will of his people, and while his power was seen as
necessary, it was also considered dangerous. Patriots tried to limit the leader's power in two
ways: 1) They gained immunities called "political liberties or rights." The leader was thought to
have a duty to respect these immunities, and there was a right of rebellion if these rights and
liberties were infringed. 2) Constitutional checks developed, under which the community or
their representatives gained some power of consent over important acts of governance.
• Mill writes that eventually men progressed to a point where they wanted their leaders to be
their servants, and to reflect their interests and will. It was thought that it was not necessary to
limit this new kind of ruler's power, because he was accountable to the people, and there was
no fear of the people tyrannizing itself.
• an actual democratic republic developed (The United States), it was realized that the people
don't rule themselves. Rather, the people with power exercise it over those without power. In
particular, a majority may consciously try to oppress a minority. Mill writes that this concept of
a tyranny of the majority has come to be accepted by major thinkers. Mill, however, argues
that society can also tyrannize without using political means. Rather, the power of public
opinioncan be more stifling to individuality and dissent than any law could be. Thus, he writes
that there must also be protection for people against the prevailing public opinions, and the
tendency of society to impose its values on others.
• QUESTION OF MILL -Mill sees it, is where and how to limit public opinion's sway over
• People tend to believe that having strong feelings on a subject makes having reasons for that
belief unnecessary, failing to realize that without reasons their beliefs are mere preferences,
often reflecting self-interest.
Mill turns to the issue of whether people, either through their government or on their own, should
be allowed to coerce or limit anyone else's expression of opinion. • Mill emphatically says that such actions are illegitimate. Even if only one person held a
particular opinion, mankind would not be justified in silencing him. Silencing these
opinions, Mill says, is wrong because it robs "the human race, posterity as well as the
existing generation." In particular, it robs those who disagree with these silenced opinions.
• “the greatest orator,…, has left it on record that he always studied his
adversary’s case with as great, if not with still greater intensity than
even his own” (44) “But if he does not so much as know what they are,
he has no grounds for preferring either opinion ”
• “they do not know those parts of it which explain and justify the
• Mill then turns to the reasons why humanity is hurt by silencing opinions. His first
argument is that the suppressed opinion may be true. He writes that since human beings
are not infallible, they have no authority to decide an issue for all people, and to keep
others from coming up with their own judgments.
• 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 t