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PHL271H1 (17)

Mill, On Liberty

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University of Toronto St. George
Deirdre Flynn

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty(1859) April 14 , 2010 Introduction: - Mill’s essay is regarding what he calls Civil or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by a society over the individual - The aim of patriots that were against totalitarian rule that was just as likely to protect them from harm as it was to harm them, was to set limits to the power which the rules should be suffered to exercise over the community; and this limitation was what they meant by liberty. This was attempted in two primary ways: 1. By obtaining recognition of certain immunities, called political liberties or rights, which, if the ruler did infringe, specific resistance or general rebellion was to be justified 2. The establishment of a constitution supposed to represent the interests of the people, was made a necessary condition to some of the more important acts of the governing power - Then a time came when democracy appeared and with it the thought that too much importance had been associated with limiting the power of the governor. Since rulers were now identified with the people, their interests should be the interest and will of the nation. - However, in political and philosophical theories as well as in persons, success discloses faults and infirmities which failure might have concealed from observation  The will of the people, moreover, practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active; the majority, or those who succeed in making themselves accepted as the majority, may desire to oppress a part of their number and precautions are needed against this as any other abuse of power - Protection against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling  There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism - To an ordinary man, however, his own preference is not only a perfectly satisfactory reason, but the one he generally has for any notion and his chief guide in interpretation. - The likings and disliking of society, or some powerful portion of it, are the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law - The object of the essay is to assert the following: as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of societ
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