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Mill's central probleme and arguments in "On Liberty"

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Identify Mill's central problem and trace the steps of the argument he uses to sustain his thesis . How many "steps" are there? Can you please clarify?

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Solution Summary

This post addresses John Stuart Mill's central argument in "On Liberty" and the steps he took to arrive at how to reconcile individual liberty with government control.

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Mill's On Liberty- I need a few answers and some feedback

I have a short paper due that I have been struggling with. I am a first year philosophy student. I have read On Liberty but do not fully understand it.

There are questions I need assistance with. Prof stated that each answer would take approximately one page. The whole paper will be only five pages. Each question has to be answered using only Mill's analysis (not any other philosopher or editor).

I think that Mill's central problem in this book is when he states that the government can only exercise its power over citizens when they are hurting others. Is this correct? Why is this a "problem" for Mill? Is it a problem because he is overly vague about the limits of liberty? What about when he states that one may not be interfered with when doing something to hurt himself? Is a problem lying in the fact that Mill does not make a huge distinction between actions that harm others and actions that harm oneself? Example: I am trying to commit suicide. Would Mill say that this is fine, as "over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign"?

Text: On Liberty, edited with an introduction by Getrude Himmelfarb, Penguin Books Ltd, 1974.

My comment: I think you are on target.

The problematic of the book could also be stated as: Individual freedom?which is a fundamental political right? and when governemtnt can restrict that freedom. (Or, as Mill himself states, "The Struggle between Liberty and Authority", p. 59. Or, "how to make the fitting adjustment between individual independence and social control", p. 63).

Mill lays emphasis on the development of the individual liberty especially through education, so that each person could develop their human potentialities which are best known to them. Each person is therefore to work out their own plans for life which will enhance their moral development. The individual is to exercise that liberty in full and it can only be restricted if, and only if, the individual is doing harm to others. But there is a distinction between offending and harming others. Mill lays emphasis on the individual's freedom of thought and discussion (or freedom of speech and of the press as it is now called). You cannot stifle the freedom of anybody who is doing something that is not hurting another person. Thought or opinion and speech are therefore free for all individuals. He therefore states in this vein that "we can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring to stifle is a ...

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