Friday, November 19, 2010

Briefly explain the major terms in Mill’s ‘On Liberty’.

Liberty – For Mill, liberty encompasses both civil and social liberty, which he defines as “the nature and limits of the power of which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual.” Mill argues that society can only exert authority over behavior that harms other people, anything else is an abrogation of individual freedom.

Tyranny of the majority – This is the concept that in a democratic state the majority of people can impose its will on a. minority. Mill believes this behavior is “tyrannical” when it violates a claim that the minority has as a member of society.
Social Contract - This reflects the idea that society is something that people either explicitly or implicitly agreed to be part of. Social contract theory was first formulated by Rousseau in The Social Contract, and defines rights as those things that people would have agreed to have protected by society, and duties as those things people would have agreed to take on as obligations, had they been present at the formation of the state.
Infallible - Incapable of making a mistake or being wrong.
Fallible - Capable of making mistakes and being wrong.
Q. 3. Write a detailed critical analysis of chapter 1 “introductory”?
Mill’s introduction is one of the most important parts of his essay as it contain the basic structure of his argument, as well as some of his major presuppositions. Mill describes civilization as a struggle between society and the individual about which should have control over the individual’s actions. Mill sees the world as tipping toward a balance in which society, through laws and public opinion, has far more power over the actions and thoughts of art individual than an individual has over himself. Mill rejects this status arguing that society should have control over only those actions that directly affect it or those actions that harm some of its members. Mill argues that an individual harming himself or acting against his own good provides insufficient reason for others to interfere. His essay will be a description of why this is the case.
It is important to note that in rejecting social interference with individual thought and activity, Mill is not just writing about laws, but also about “moral reprobation.” An individual or group cannot rightly punish a person’s behavior by, for example, treating him as an enemy, if his actions only affect himself. In rejecting the legitimacy of coercive opinion. Mill drastically broadens the scope of his claims. It is worth paying attention in later chapters to why Mill is so critical of public disapproval of behavior, and to the avenues that Mill does leave open for people to express disapproval of actions they dislike.
The idea of progress is integral to Mills essay, and this chapter reflects a few of his ideas on the subject. Mill believes that individuals and society as a whole can improve themselves. Fitting with this idea, he considers different societies to exist on a clear hierarchy of value: barbaric societies are childlike, without the necessary tools of self-government. They must be governed like children, so that they can eventually become capable of exercising their liberty. Yet while Mill considers progress and civilization to be definite goads, he also expresses concern that with progress comes conformity. In later chapters he will try to show that such conformity could undermine further individual and social improvement.
In this introduction, Mill explicitly calls his, justification of liberty utilitarian. In doing so, he says outright that his defense of liberty will not be based on natural rights, such as those proposed by Locke or on metaphysical claims, such as those proposed by Kant. Rather. Mill bases his argument on what is best for mankind, and in doing so suggests that his arguments will show the individual and social benefits of human liberty. In later chapters, it is worthwhile to examine when and how Mill makes broad utilitarian arguments for liberty and to similarly look for instances when Mill resorts to non-utilitarian arguments.

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