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Theory of liberty

Main article: On Liberty Mill's On Liberty addresses the nature and limits of the power that can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. One argument that Mill develops further than any previous philosopher is the harm principle. The harm principle holds that each individual has the right to act as he wants, so long as these actions do not harm others. If the action is self-regarding, that is, if it only directly affects the person undertaking the action, then society has no right to intervene, even if it feels the actor is harming himself. He does argue, however, that individuals are prevented from doing lasting, serious harm to themselves or their property by the harm principle. Because no-one exists in isolation, harm done to oneself also harms others, and destroying property deprives the community as well as oneself.[18] Mill excuses those who are "incapable of self-government" from this principle, such as young children or those living in "backward states of society". Mill argues that despotism is an acceptable form of government for those societies that are "backward", as long as the despot has the best interests of the people at heart, because of the barriers to spontaneous progress.[19] Though this principle seems clear, there are a number of complications. For example, Mill explicitly states that "harms" may include acts of omission as well as acts of commission. Thus, failing to rescue a drowning child counts as a harmful act, as does failing to pay taxes, or failing to appear as a witness in court. All such harmful omissions may be regulated, according to Mill. By contrast, it does not count as harming someone if – without force or fraud – the affected individual consents to assume the risk: thus one may permissibly offer unsafe employment to others, provided th ere is no deception involved. (Mill does, however, recognise one limit to consent: society should not permit people to sell themselves into slavery). In these and other cases, it is important to keep in mind that the arguments in On Liberty are grounded on the principle of Utility, and not on appeals to natural rights. The question of what counts as a self-regarding action and what actions, whether of omission or commission, constitute harmful actions subject to regulation, continues to exercise interpreters of Mill. It is important to emphasise that Mill did not consider giving offence to constitute "harm"; an action could not be restricted because it violated the conventions or morals of a given society.

However. Second. and the government. in other words." He introduced a number of different tyrannies. in Mill's view. John Stuart Mill and Helen Taylor. individuals are more likely to abandon erroneous beliefs if they are engaged in an open exchange of ideas. liberty in antiquity was a “contest. and enslaving the soul itself. "Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right. Helen was the daughter of Harriet Taylor and collaborated with Mill for fifteen years after her mother's death in 1858 Mill's view on social liberty and tyranny of majority Mill believed that “the struggle between Liberty and Authority is the most conspicuous feature in the portions of history. and also thetyranny of the majority. since. including social tyranny. by forcing other individuals to reexamine and re-affirm their beliefs in the process of debate. First. by establishment of a system of "constitutional checks".” For him. though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties.” ." Mill defined "social liberty" as protection from "the tyranny of political rulers. He said that social liberty was “the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual”. that a silenced opinion does not contain some element of the truth. called political liberties or rights. It was attempted in two ways: first. penetrating much more deeply into the details of life. Social liberty for Mill meant putting limits on the ruler’s power so that he would not be able to use his power on his own wishes and make decisions which could harm society.. or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle. or some classes of subjects. Mill argues that free discourse is a necessary condition for intellectual and social progress. he contends. between subjects. it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression. it leaves fewer means of escape.On Liberty involves an impassioned defence of free speech.. He stated. by obtaining recognition of certain immunities. limiting the power of government was not enough. We can never be sure. second. people should have the right to have a say in the government’s decisions. one must understand why the belief in question is the true one. It is not enough for Mill that one simply has an unexamined belief that happens to be true. these beliefs are kept from declining into mere dogma. He also argues that allowing people to air false opinions is productive for two reasons.

because. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community.View on liberty John Stuart Mill’s view on liberty. But I must be permitted to observe that it is not the feeling sure of a doctrine (be it what it may) which I call an assumption of infallibility. He says: "I choose. However. – yet if. or even right.”[20] Views on freedom of speech An influential advocate of freedom of speech. Government should interfere when it is for the protection of society.. to do so would be wise. is that which concerns others. of right. Mill explains. he prevents the opinion from being heard in its defence. absolute. In the part which merely concerns him. is to prevent harm to others. he assumes infallibility.. not only of the faculty but of the pernicious consequences. is self-protection. in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number. or any of the commonly received doctrines of morality. is not sufficient warrant. both on truth and that of utility. is considered the strongest. And I denounce and reprobate this pretension not the less if it is put forth on the side of my most solemn convictions. without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side. in pursuance of that private judgement. is that the individual ought to be free to do as he wishes unless he harms others. the individual issovereign. this is the case of all others in which it is most fatal.The only part of the conduct of anyone.. against his will. though backed by the public judgement of his country or contemporaries.”[21] . And so far from the assumption being less objectionable or less dangerous because the opinion is called immoral or impious. his independence is. but (to adopt expressions which I altogether condemn) the immorality and impiety of opinion. positive anyone's persuasion may be. It is the undertaking to decide that question for others. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so. over his own body and mind. in the opinion of others. Over himself. Mill objected to censorship. “The sole end for which mankind are warranted. by preference the cases which are least favourable to me – In which the argument against freedom of opinion. either physical or moral. Let the opinions impugned be the belief of God and in a future state. for which he is amenable to society. Individuals are rational enough to make decisions about their good being and choose any religion they want to. which was influenced by Joseph Priestley and Josiah Warren.. His own good. individually or collectively. because it will make him happier.

[22] Worried about minority views being suppressed.[22] Mill also eloquently argued that freedom of expression allows for personal growth and self-realization. Mills also argued in support of freedom of speech on political grounds. the truth can be better understood by refuting the error. He said that freedom of speech was a vital way to develop talents and realise a person's potential and creativity. And as most opinions are neither completely true nor completely false.[22] .Mills outlines the benefits of 'searching for and discovering the truth' as a way to further knowledge. He repeatedly said that eccentricity was preferable to uniformity and stagnation. he points out that allowing free expression allows the airing of competing views as a way to preserve partial truth in various opinions. He argued that even if an opinion is false. stating that it is a critical component for a representative government to have in order to empower debate over public policy.