Mill's Principles in His Work On Liberty Essay

Mill's Principles in His Work On Liberty Essay

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Mill's Principles in His Work On Liberty

John Stuart Mill was born in London in 1806, the son of the
philosopher James Mill. James Mill was a close friend of Jeremy
Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism (the theory that states that
the right course of action is the course which generates the most
happiness). Bentham and James Mill educated J. S. Mill rigorously, to
such an extent that he began reading Ancient Greek at age 3. He was
reading Plato's Dialogues at age 13 - in their original form. His
father trained him in political economy, philosophy, the classics and
many other intellectual subject areas.

Mill was an active philosopher. He was a member of the philosophical
radicals (a group of utilitarian philosophers) and worked for the East
India Company. But his education took its toll. At the age of 21, J.
S. Mill had a mental breakdown. His father and Bentham had educated
him to be the perfect utilitarian - i.e. the perfect rational being,
but Mill began to develop his own emotions and his own opinions. He
felt that his "habit of analysis" had destroyed all his capacity for
emotion - he had no spontaneous and natural feeling. When this period
of depression was over, Mill entered a new era, which produced his
book On Liberty.

One of the main arguments that Mill propounds in On Liberty deals with
his liberty principle (LP). This, apparently, is "one very simple
principle" which defines "the nature and limits of the power which can
legitimately be exercised by society over the individual". According
to Mill, liberty is what defines the legitimacy of a society - "any
society that fails to honour the liberty of the individual ...

... middle of paper ...

...approach is dialectical. He claims
that there are "stages" of history where there have been two classes -
one class with more power than the other. In each stage there has been
a struggle between each class, and the ruling class is eventually
overthrown by the lower class. The lower class then become the ruling
class, and history progresses into the next stage. This is dialectical
because it shows how two opposing sides collide and allow history to

[4] It is interesting to note that Marx's communist vision of the
future has never actually materialised. There have been attempts
(Soviet Russia and China) but they have been based on revised Marxist
ideas and never the actually ideas of Marx himself. According to Mill,
Marx is not infallible and so made a mistake is forming a definite
theory for the future.

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