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On Liberty (LibriVox Recording, audiobook)

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Total running time: 5:21:54 Read by David Barnes. Published in 1859, On Liberty details Mill’s view that individuals should be left wholly free to engage in any activity, thought or belief that does not harm others. Simple though it sounds, it is a position that challenges our ideas on the very nature of government and society, and sheds light on some of the key issues we Total running time: 5:21:54 Read by David Barnes. Published in 1859, On Liberty details Mill’s view that individuals should be left wholly free to engage in any activity, thought or belief that does not harm others. Simple though it sounds, it is a position that challenges our ideas on the very nature of government and society, and sheds light on some of the key issues we face today. A key text of political philosophy, On Liberty has been continuously in print since its first publication. (Summary by David Barnes). LibriVox recordings are Public Domain in the USA. If you are not in the USA, please verify the copyright status of these works in your own country before downloading, otherwise you may be violating copyright laws. LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.


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Total running time: 5:21:54 Read by David Barnes. Published in 1859, On Liberty details Mill’s view that individuals should be left wholly free to engage in any activity, thought or belief that does not harm others. Simple though it sounds, it is a position that challenges our ideas on the very nature of government and society, and sheds light on some of the key issues we Total running time: 5:21:54 Read by David Barnes. Published in 1859, On Liberty details Mill’s view that individuals should be left wholly free to engage in any activity, thought or belief that does not harm others. Simple though it sounds, it is a position that challenges our ideas on the very nature of government and society, and sheds light on some of the key issues we face today. A key text of political philosophy, On Liberty has been continuously in print since its first publication. (Summary by David Barnes). LibriVox recordings are Public Domain in the USA. If you are not in the USA, please verify the copyright status of these works in your own country before downloading, otherwise you may be violating copyright laws. LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.

30 review for On Liberty (LibriVox Recording, audiobook)

  1. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    WARNING: Some of my political views are discussed in this VERY LONG review. I don't think there is anything offensive but with politics, you never know. Therefore, in case anything I say upsets anyone, I have included several very CUTE kitten photos by way of apology. 6.0 stars. On Liberty has secured a spot on my list of “All Time Favorite” books. I have gone through a pretty significant political re-examination over the last several years (maybe a lot of us have). A few years ago, if you were WARNING: Some of my political views are discussed in this VERY LONG review. I don't think there is anything offensive but with politics, you never know. Therefore, in case anything I say upsets anyone, I have included several very CUTE kitten photos by way of apology. 6.0 stars. On Liberty has secured a spot on my list of “All Time Favorite” books. I have gone through a pretty significant political re-examination over the last several years (maybe a lot of us have). A few years ago, if you were to line up everyone on goodreads according to political beliefs, I would guess that I would be found at the more conservative end of the spectrum. However, recently, I have come to see that I disagree with “LARGE CHUNKS” of both political parties and find myself embracing a more “libertarian” philosophy. Without going into a detailed thesis of my political beliefs, I am going to share a few basic beliefs so that you will understand where I am coming from in relation to the theories that Mill argues in favor of in this book. . . . The following is a political advertisement on behalf of S-PAC (Stupid Political Asshats of Congress) …which is sponsored in part by the WTF Association whose motto is, “When you can see it but just can’t believe it….WTF.” Social Issues: On social issues, I think you can generally sum up my feelings as follows: I believe, with certain exceptions, everyone should be free to do whatever they want so long they are not causing harm to anybody else and this freedom necessarily extends to control over their own body. I know that is pretty simplistic but the nuances would take forever to explain so hopefully I can explain the basic gist. For example, I think people should be able to: (a): Eat whatever you want (does not seem to be a problem for people in the U.S.); (b): Drink what you want (of course, we run into the whole “cause no harm” thing once you get behind the wheel); (c): Smoke cigarettes and cigars if you want…with reasonable restrictions for places where people either have no choice in being (e.g., work, school) or “little” choice (e.g., an airplane or mass transportation). (d): Do drugs if you want… I may not like this one but it would be “hypocritical” of me to distinguish this from the whole “free to live as you want and control your own body” philosophy (however, the “cause no harm” requirement still applies). (e): Love who you want…provided we are talking consenting ADULTS***. For me, this is a no-brainer. Two consenting adults caring for one another...let's move on. ***Point of clarification #1…I said consenting ADULTS. Pedophiles and NAMBLA spokesmen can go ahead and sit back down…or better yet: (f): Abortion….uh, I think I just stumbled upon one of the third rails of politics. However, like the drug issue I think it would be hypocritical of me to argue an exception to the whole “control over your own body” philosophy and therefore, regardless of what one personally believes, I don’t believe you should have the right to impose that belief on someone else and thus a person should be “free to choose.”*** ***Point of Clarificaiton #2... I can hear the “do no harm” contingent screaming on this one and I understand the argument but (for me at least), the other interests don’t overcome the fundamental freedom over one’s own body. Okay, this is getting a little heavy, so I would like to take a short break to look at another cute animal photo: Ahhhhh, that is cute. Okay, I feel better. Economic Issues: Being consistent and applying the same reasoning as above to economic issues will probably make me sound very conservative, but it is really just a consistent application of the concept of individual freedom. Basically, I think that people should be free to keep what they earn, except for some reasonably allocated portion needed to DEFEND*** the Country and to protect the rights of people to live their lives free from oppression by their neighbor. *** Point of Clarification #3...I said DEFEND the Country. That does NOT mean the equivalent of getting a bunch of your buddies together, grabbing a pile of gold from the money room and storming off next door because you think they MIGHT be the next Mordor. Now I certainly understand that for a lot of people this is just too limited a governmental role and they feel like there are things the government NEEDS to do. I certainly acknowledge that the government does a lot of things that help a lot of people. For me, the problem arises when I step back and start with the basic premise that every dollar the government has must be TAKEN from someone (e.g., through taxes, tariffs, or borrowing from our kids). Now when those “taxes” go to benefit everyone (e.g., defense, police, courts, etc.) then it is simply a matter of figuring out how to fairly allocate the burden among the people. However, when money is taken from one group and given it to another group, suddenly you are in the position of necessarily imposing one group’s values on another. Suddenly it is necessary to “lobby” the government so that your group is the one that comes out on top. Thus, you get the rise of the “special interest” group, the name calling, the buying of influence through “campaign contribution” and everyone fighting for control over the public teat. Basically, you get our current political system which just seems broken to me. Well, I have probably said more about myself than most of you care to know. Hopefully, I haven’t offended anyone even if you don’t agree with anything I have said. Thank you for listening to me ramble and, as a form of appreciation, I offer you another cute kitten picture: . . . Well, with that VERY LONG introduction, I now come to the book itself. On Liberty is in many ways a “bible” for libertarian philosophy and encompasses many of the ideas I mentioned above. In the book, Mill takes the position that, with certain limited exceptions, people should be free to think what they want, believe what they want, worship (or not worship) as they want, speak and write freely and conduct their own personal lives without interference from the government. Mill argues that the government’s role should be to create the environment whereby people can be free from the oppression of their neighbor and should not intrude in or exert control over the day to day lives of its citizens. In addition to his strong defense in favor of freedom of the press, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly and debate, Mill also passionately argues that all of the very assumptions that we live by should never be held so sacred as to be excluded from debate. Mill argues that only by examining our beliefs and subjecting them to rigorous debate and evaluation can we achieve true wisdom. I thought that was a wonderful way of saying keep an open mind and always be willing to challenge your assumptions. One final thing I wanted to mention that I found fascinating for a book written in 1859, was Mills position on women’s rights. Mills categorically believed that the right to be free and live your life as you choose applied equally to both women and men. He spoke of the “oppression” of husbands over their wives as being absolutely contrary to the principle of individual freedom. I found him to seriously ahead of time on that subject and it just made me appreciate his positions even more. Overall, I have rarely found myself more in agreement with a book on political theory and am sure I will be reading this again in the future. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATION!!!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    On Liberty, John Stuart Mill On Liberty is a philosophical work by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill, originally intended as a short essay. The work, published in 1859, applies Mill's ethical system of utilitarianism to society and the state. Mill attempts to establish standards for the relationship between authority and liberty. He emphasizes the importance of individuality, which he conceived as a prerequisite to the higher pleasures—the summum bonum (The highest good) of utilitarianism On Liberty, John Stuart Mill On Liberty is a philosophical work by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill, originally intended as a short essay. The work, published in 1859, applies Mill's ethical system of utilitarianism to society and the state. Mill attempts to establish standards for the relationship between authority and liberty. He emphasizes the importance of individuality, which he conceived as a prerequisite to the higher pleasures—the summum bonum (The highest good) of utilitarianism. Furthermore, Mill criticizes the errors of past attempts to defend individuality where, for example, democratic ideals resulted in the "tyranny of the majority". Among the standards established in this work are Mill's three basic liberties of individuals, his three legitimate objections to government intervention, and his two maxims regarding the relationship of the individual to society. عنوانها: «رساله در باره آزادی»؛ «تاملاتی در حکومت انتخابی»؛ «آزادی»؛ نویسنده: جان استوارت میل؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1970 میلادی عنوان: رساله در باره آزادی؛ نویسنده: جان استوارت میل؛ مترجم محمدجواد شیخ الاسلامی؛ تهران، بنگاه ترجمه و نشر کتاب، 1338، چاپ دیگر 1348؛ در 269ص؛ 1349، در 306ص؛ عنوان دیگر تاملاتی در حکومت انتخابی؛ عنوان دیگر آزادی، نشر سال 1340؛ چاپ دیگر تهران، علمی فرهنگی، 1363؛ چاپ دیگر 1375، در 416 ص؛ شابک: 9644450094؛ چاپ دیگر 1385؛ موضوع: آزادی از نویسندگان انگلیسی - سده 19م درباره ی آزادی؛ رساله‌ ای فلسفی، نوشته فیلسوف بریتانیایی، «جان استوارت میل»، در سال 1859میلادی است؛ این رساله برای خوانشگران دوره ی ویکتوریایی، درون‌مایه‌ ای تندورانه داشت، زیرا از اخلاق فردی پشتیبانی کرده، و بر رهایی اقتصادی از دولت تأکید می‌کند؛ در این رساله، «جان استوارت میل»، یکی از پیچیده‌ ترین مفاهیم فلسفی، یعنی «آزادی» را، مورد پژوهش قرار داده، و کوشیده‌ است «حدود آزادی فردی»، و اصول آن را روشنتر سازد، و رابطه ی آنرا با قدرت و سلطه ی اجتماع، نشان دهد؛ مدل «جان استوارت میل» از مردم‌سالاری، یک مدل اخلاقی، در میان مدل‌های «دموکراسی لیبرال» است، که بر شکوفایی انسان تأکید دارد؛ ایشان در رساله ی «دربارهٔ آزادی»، که یکی از آثار نام آشنای ایشانست، ضمن دفاع از آزادی، علیه دو خطر، می‌گویند: «…، اگر ما افراد جامعه را آزاد بگذاریم، که زندگانی خود را به هر نحوی که دل‌شان خواست ترتیب بدهند، و در همان حال از آن‌ها بخواهیم که ذوق و سلیقه ی انفرادی همدیگر را تحمل کنند (نه اینکه همدیگر را مجبور سازند که مطابق میل و سلیقه دیگران زندگانی کنند)، در آن صورت برای ساختن دنیایی همکاری کرده‌ ایم، که زندگانی بشر در آن، با سود و سعادت راستین، شدنی است …؛ امروز تقریباً هیچ نیازی به توضیح یا اثبات این نظر نیست، که ما نباید به یک هیئت مقننه یا مجریه، که منافعش با منافع همگان یکی نیست، اجازه دهیم، که برای افراد جامعه باور خود را تجویز کنند، یا اینکه تصمیم بگیرند که چه نوع نظرات و دلایل باید به گوش مردمان برسد…؛ دوران زجر و کیفر دادن به نویسندگان، و ناشران، به جرم مطالبی که نوشته، و باورهایی که پخش کرده‌ اند به پایان رسیده‌ است.»؛ پایان نقل تاریخ نخستین خوانش 12/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  3. 4 out of 5

    notgettingenough

    Anybody interested in free speech must surely be concerned with the situation of Bret Weinstein in the US. See for instance his hour interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fEAP... One can only be deeply ashamed that non-conservative media has (I understand) all but ignored this story. Curious to have a statement of why this is so, I've written to NPR to find out why they have not reported one word on it. I am waiting for a response. Meanwhile, John Stuart Mill's words to remind us of wha Anybody interested in free speech must surely be concerned with the situation of Bret Weinstein in the US. See for instance his hour interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fEAP... One can only be deeply ashamed that non-conservative media has (I understand) all but ignored this story. Curious to have a statement of why this is so, I've written to NPR to find out why they have not reported one word on it. I am waiting for a response. Meanwhile, John Stuart Mill's words to remind us of what is at stake. The students who are behaving so disgracefully, who have no interest in truth and most certainly no interest in free speech (except theirs, of course) would do well to heed his words, so timely in a period in which groups of thugs rule and noises on social media make do as replacements for truth, for philosophical contemplation and the like. What could be more apt than the following words on social tyranny? I note in particular from what Weinstein has said of his situation, that is isn't even the lack of coverage by the left, craven as that is which is most disappointing. What is really disturbing is the number of people who support him in private but will not stand up in public. This is a terrible world we live in where thuggery has won and free speech is a thing of the past. To think that it is the left of centre that is creating this situation, too scared to stand up for this elementary principle, and that it is conservatives who are filling the vacuum is a truly depressing state of affairs. "Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own." "The principle itself of dogmatic religion, dogmatic morality, dogmatic philosophy, is what requires to be rooted out; not any particular manifestation of that principle. The very corner-stone of an education intended to form great minds, must be the recognition of the principle, that the object is to call forth the greatest possible quantity of intellectual power, and to inspire the intensest love of truth: and this without a particle of regard to the results to which the exercise of that power may lead, even though it should conduct the pupil to opinions diametrically opposite to those of his teachers. We say this, not because we think opinions unimportant, but because of the immense importance which we attach to them; for in proportion to the degree of intellectual power and love of truth which we succeed in creating, is the certainty that (whatever may happen in any one particular instance) in the aggregate of instances true opinions will be the result; and intellectual power and practical love of truth are alike impossible where the reasoner is shown his conclusions, and informed beforehand that he is expected to arrive at them." I'm afraid even this is pertinent: War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other. "The Contest in America," Fraser’s Magazine (February 1862); later published in Dissertations and Discussions (1868), vol.1 p. 26 How can great minds be produced in a country where the test of a great mind is agreeing in the opinions of small minds? It might be plausibly maintained, that in almost every one of the leading controversies, past or present, in social philosophy, both sides were in the right in what they affirmed, though wrong in what they denied. All lifted from wiki quotes.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    Written in the 1850s, parts of this classic text are a little dated, but mostly it remains surprisingly relevant to the modern world. Probably it’s most famous for its second chapter, where Mill gives an impassioned defence of free speech. It’s noticeable that he sees social pressure as a more insidious threat to free speech than government legislation. How relevant is the quote below to the modern phenomenon of the social media mob? “…there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevai Written in the 1850s, parts of this classic text are a little dated, but mostly it remains surprisingly relevant to the modern world. Probably it’s most famous for its second chapter, where Mill gives an impassioned defence of free speech. It’s noticeable that he sees social pressure as a more insidious threat to free speech than government legislation. How relevant is the quote below to the modern phenomenon of the social media mob? “…there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by means other than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them…” The free speech chapter is the best argued part of the book, and it’s beyond my ability to summarise it accurately in a review. Perhaps for me the most persuasive argument, was that anyone who refuses to allow another’s opinion to be voiced does so because they assume their own certainty represents absolute certainty, therefore: “All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility.” In the third chapter, on individuality, Mill once again reveals his strong aversion to conformity, and he condemns the tendency of people to comply with social expectations rather than follow their own nature. In this chapter he raises what later became known as the Needham Question – why was it that China, once so powerful, had become so weak? Mill thought the decline was caused by an over rigid enforcement of custom: “A people, it appears, may be progressive for a certain length of time, and then stop: when does it stop? When it ceases to possess individuality.” I found this a little tendentious, but overall the chapter still has much to commend it. In Chapter IV, Mill considers the proper limits of government power. He had a deep suspicion of government, something he shared with most educated Britons of his era. In the book he strongly opposes government interference with trade and industry, beyond basic requirements such as preventing fraud or maintaining hygiene. He also opposes the idea, commonly accepted in Europe today, that governments should intervene to protect people from themselves. For Mill, if someone wanted to drink or gamble to excess, or smoke opium; that was their business. Governments and charities could attempt to educate people into taking a different path but could not compel them to do so. He does however argue for compulsory schooling of children, which was not in place at the time. In modern terms libertarianism is probably the philosophy that best matches Mill’s classic liberalism, and that philosophy is better preserved in the United States than in Mill’s native England. A supremely eloquent essay though. I’ve probably marked more highlights in this book than any other I’ve read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. It would be pretentious to suggest I dedicated my reading to Ahmed Merabet, yet it would be untrue to exclaim otherwise. We've drowned in debate about liberty this last week. Somehow I regard that as most encouraging. I found Mill’s treatise riveting and incisive Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. It would be pretentious to suggest I dedicated my reading to Ahmed Merabet, yet it would be untrue to exclaim otherwise. We've drowned in debate about liberty this last week. Somehow I regard that as most encouraging. I found Mill’s treatise riveting and incisive along a number of axes which inform our means of government and private life. Mill was a shrewd historian and a brilliant writer. I gasped audibly at his conclusions and deft references. Too often Utilitarianism is wedged into confined spaces for politically conservative purposes. I have no problem with that. I suspect J.S. Mill wouldn't either. His moral remains, we should all disagree, question custom and exercise our faculties at every turn.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Numidica

    Dense, but well written, and of course, it is a classic discourse on individual liberty and it's relationship to governmental power. Dense, but well written, and of course, it is a classic discourse on individual liberty and it's relationship to governmental power.

  7. 5 out of 5

    T

    A fundamental text in the Philosophical canon, but we still mustn't overlook the overt imperialism, naivety and intellectualism which seeps throughout these pages... A fundamental text in the Philosophical canon, but we still mustn't overlook the overt imperialism, naivety and intellectualism which seeps throughout these pages...

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rosie Nguyễn

    The book is so great that whenever being asked about it, I'm just speechless, restless, wondering how to give the right word. It's not easy to read, and not easy to make a review. I keep delaying to note my thoughts about it, partly afraid I'm not good enough to comment on such a masterpiece. Yet I try, for my own record, for my later review on this review, and for the future reflection. On Liberty is an excellent work on human rights and individual's relationship with society. What scores here i The book is so great that whenever being asked about it, I'm just speechless, restless, wondering how to give the right word. It's not easy to read, and not easy to make a review. I keep delaying to note my thoughts about it, partly afraid I'm not good enough to comment on such a masterpiece. Yet I try, for my own record, for my later review on this review, and for the future reflection. On Liberty is an excellent work on human rights and individual's relationship with society. What scores here is that the author defines an explicit boundary between one's freedom and community's interference into one's choice of lifestyle. That gives reader, especially young readers, an affirmation, a clear vision, on how to lead their lives. This book is so rightful, so distinctive, so cohesive, I'm overwhelmed by the vastness and integrity of the arguments. It's not an easy book to read, as said. But it should not be omitted in any bookshelf just for the mere ease of mind of the bookshelf' owner. It's a real hard mental labor. For this reason, I would recommend this book to any friend who takes a good care of his mind and intellectual.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Valdimar

    MILL: the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way... ME: Yes. Good MILL: ...so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it... ME: Great. Go on. keep em comin MILL: ..therefore Neoliberalism ME: No

  10. 5 out of 5

    A Man Called Ove

    4.5/5 I was listening to an interview of Mr.Anupam Kher today on a 'Newslaundry' podcast. The interviewer was questioning him persistently on why he supports restrictions on freedom-of-expression ? I think Mr.Kher (I am a semi-fan of his), gave a number of arguments which were moral and not legal, niceties and not crimes, and failed to distinguish between the 2. This makes me wonder whether even those who suppose themselves to be liberals truly understand the basic reasons behind freedom-of-expr 4.5/5 I was listening to an interview of Mr.Anupam Kher today on a 'Newslaundry' podcast. The interviewer was questioning him persistently on why he supports restrictions on freedom-of-expression ? I think Mr.Kher (I am a semi-fan of his), gave a number of arguments which were moral and not legal, niceties and not crimes, and failed to distinguish between the 2. This makes me wonder whether even those who suppose themselves to be liberals truly understand the basic reasons behind freedom-of-expression. Speaking of myself, I too dont understand it completely, failing to see what is incitement of violence and what is permissible speech sometimes. My own thought-process, starting from the point in my early 20s, where I felt that it was an 'elitist' notion, an abstract notion with no benefits to society, when I felt that perhaps MF Hussain deserved some of it. Today, I merely and validly question why he didnt draw his own religion's symbols too ? I would stand by him and condemn those vandalisms/physical attacks on him today. Freedom-of-expression remained elitist unfortunately even in Ayn Rand's individualism, earning it the scorn of many. Orwell outlined extreme situations and continued to be something impractical and far-off. There are books that rightly talk of it being the root of prosperity but they too provide a partial picture. In this 150 page book, John Stuart Mill, lays down comprehensive arguments on why freedom-of-expression and liberty is of utmost value, necessity, practical use to the common man. He explores and answers every objection that I have heard so far which is fantastic 160 years after the book was published and shall be so till the end of time. This book should be compulsory reading in schools and colleges. 0.5 has been deducted because the language was tough and dry. A bit like I sometimes read on legal documents. Wish someone writes a lucid version filled with contemporary examples around the world, since it is one of the most important books ever written and few of the most important thoughts ever expressed. Wish it had a little more on economic liberalism.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Capsguy

    It's amazing how it appears as if the older the work, the more relevant it is to today. Sure, this is anything but 'old' in comparison to Socrates and other writers, but this over 150 year old document still serves well today, definitely worth the few hours reading and I recommend it to everyone. It is logically structured and written with ease of reading and understanding without the sacrifice of the quality of his argument. As mentioned by Mill, he's not necessarily bringing anything new to the It's amazing how it appears as if the older the work, the more relevant it is to today. Sure, this is anything but 'old' in comparison to Socrates and other writers, but this over 150 year old document still serves well today, definitely worth the few hours reading and I recommend it to everyone. It is logically structured and written with ease of reading and understanding without the sacrifice of the quality of his argument. As mentioned by Mill, he's not necessarily bringing anything new to the table, just offering the argument in a more modernistic view. Of course some things aren't as applicable today that he had argued for, but I am sure if he was alive today, and now almost 200 years ago, than his arguments would reflect the day and age we live in now. This is something that the reader should take into consideration when reading aged texts, tha the applicability or viability may differ from the changes in time. However the overall argument is still a highly debatable issue, especially in the past few years in post 9/11.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Rosianna

    Not that I agree entirely with Mill's ideas about the structures and general functions of the individual and society, but this was a fascinating insight into the society I live in now, and how I regard my own place in society, if I have one. Most interesting were his points about freedom of expression, and his ability to move from our justifications for freedom of expression to freedom of tastes and pursuits without even flinching. Definitely worth a read, whatever your political persuasion. Not that I agree entirely with Mill's ideas about the structures and general functions of the individual and society, but this was a fascinating insight into the society I live in now, and how I regard my own place in society, if I have one. Most interesting were his points about freedom of expression, and his ability to move from our justifications for freedom of expression to freedom of tastes and pursuits without even flinching. Definitely worth a read, whatever your political persuasion.

  13. 4 out of 5

    DJ

    This book is a classic. Giving due credit, I must acknowledge Prof. Keith Eubanks for inadvertently turning me on to Mill. I think Eubanks once quoted Mill, perhaps in his course syllabus, and I found the quote (something about expecting more from students, and how they will perform to these higher standards given the expecatation and opportunity) intriguing. Anyway, if you're interested in learning where I get a lot of my thoughts on being an individual, read this book (or read essays/books by This book is a classic. Giving due credit, I must acknowledge Prof. Keith Eubanks for inadvertently turning me on to Mill. I think Eubanks once quoted Mill, perhaps in his course syllabus, and I found the quote (something about expecting more from students, and how they will perform to these higher standards given the expecatation and opportunity) intriguing. Anyway, if you're interested in learning where I get a lot of my thoughts on being an individual, read this book (or read essays/books by Kierkegaard; which thematically concern being an individual before Christ, etc.). I don't feel obligated to click the 'contains spoilers' box because the title of the book is such a dead give-away of its content. If nothing else, read the introduction. It's non-fiction and can be dense at times. If you're interested in a story about Kings and Princesses, read King Lear. If, however, you're looking for some of the best writing produced by an Englishman of his time, or of any time, then read this book. This should be required reading for high school students, and every educated person should read this book at least once during college, or on a break...or, am I the only nerd who reads this stuff during Spring Break? It wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that this is the case. :) ~DJ

  14. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Peterson

    I read this in college in the 70s. I remember it very positively, except for his waffling on liberty in certain areas, such as allowing the state to provide education. That was a crack that statists drove a Mack truck through and further confused liberty lovers ever since. Too bad, since so much of the book is tightly logical and well written.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    A foundational work addressing representative democracy that continues to shape ideology today. After the 2016 Presidential Election I would strongly suggest both parties hold 'JSM focus groups' to try to reconnect with the American people. A foundational work addressing representative democracy that continues to shape ideology today. After the 2016 Presidential Election I would strongly suggest both parties hold 'JSM focus groups' to try to reconnect with the American people.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sean Gabb

    During the libertarian rebirth of the past generation, it has become fashionable to sneer at the essay On Liberty. It is, I admit, a flawed work, and I will shortly try to explain why this is so. Before then, however, I will put a case for the defence - to show why, despite its flaws, the essay remains a valuable weapon in the libertarian arsenal, and will remain one when Rand and Nozick will chiefly be names found in histories of twentieth century thought. Mill is at his very best in Chapter II, During the libertarian rebirth of the past generation, it has become fashionable to sneer at the essay On Liberty. It is, I admit, a flawed work, and I will shortly try to explain why this is so. Before then, however, I will put a case for the defence - to show why, despite its flaws, the essay remains a valuable weapon in the libertarian arsenal, and will remain one when Rand and Nozick will chiefly be names found in histories of twentieth century thought. Mill is at his very best in Chapter II, "Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion". This contains the best argument for freedom of speech that I have ever found. Briefly stated, it goes thus: We have no means of knowing with complete certainty the truth or falsity of any proposition. Therefore, to prohibit its being advanced is to make a wholly unfounded assumption of infallibility. Moreover, if a prohibition is made, one of two consequences will follow: First, if the proposition is true, humanity will lose whatever benefit might follow from an addition to the stock of existing truths; Second, if it is false, we shall lose what little assurance we can have of the truth of the other proposition denied by it. Establish even the plainest truth by law, and it will dwindle from the status of a truth acknowledged by reason to the status of a prejudice that can be embarrassed by the feeblest opposing show of reason. When putting this argument, I have sometimes been called a racist, and was once pelted with beer glasses. But I have yet to hear or read a reply to it that I feel worth considering. Mill also says much of permanent value in his discussion of what we call "health activism" and "the War on Drugs". Take this against the drug controllers: [N]either one person, nor any number of persons, is warranted in saying to another human creature of ripe years, that he shall not do with his life for his own benefit what he chooses to do with it. He is the person most interested in his own well-being,.... All errors which he is likely to commit against advice and warning, are far outweighed by the evil of allowing others to constrain him to what they deem his good. (chapter iv) Again, take this against Mr Steve Woodward of Action on Smoking and Health and all the other salaried enemies of free choice: To tax stimulants for the sole purpose of making them more difficult to be obtained, is a measure differing only in degree from their entire prohibition; and would be justifiable only if that were justifiable. Every increase of cost is a prohibition, to those whose means do not come up to the augmented price; and to those who do, it is a penalty laid on them for gratifying a particular taste. Their choice of pleasures, and their mode of expending their income, after satisfying their legal and moral obligations to the State and to individuals, are their own concern, and must rest with their own judgment. (Chapter v) There is much else that I can say in favour of this essay. There is its compactness, its rhapsodic praise of individuality, its biting denunciation of bigotry and paternalism. There is its honesty, and its willingness to give full and fair consideration to all opposing points of view. There is its brevity: it can be read and considered in less than a singly evening. But I will turn now to its defects, of which I see two. In the first place, Mill fails to identify what has turned out to be the real threat to freedom. He says much in his opening chapter about "the tyranny of the majority". He claims that this works through the administrative organs of a democratic state, and through the unaided pressure of public opinion. In both areas, he is wrong. There is, I admit, a certain pressure exerted by one's neighbours to conform to whatever is the currently accepted behaviour. But anyone who looks at a civilised country in 1859, when this essay was first published, and the same country today, will see a great diminution in the power of public opinion over the individual. The growth of cities has at once provided anonymity for many disapproved acts, and refuge for their perpetrators in communities of like-minded individuals. Equally, there has been an immense growth of private toleration. A person today can safely do many things that in the 1850s would have led to his being shunned. There are few things for which he will now be shunned that were entirely respectable in 1859. Of course, it is something else if we look from public opinion to the criminal law. Here, there has been a decided loss of freedom. Yet, though every restriction has been made in the name of the majority, it has seldom been made at the urging of the majority. In at least this country, majorities have been at fault less for an eagerness to restrain than for their utter indifference to any question that does not obviously and immediately affect them. Take, for example, a question that has been controversial from Mill's day to our own - the legal status of homosexual acts. There was no majority in 1861 for removing buggery from the list of capital offences; and there was none in 1885 for creating the new offence of gross indecency between males; and none in the 1940s and 50s for strictly enforcing that law, and none in 1967 and 1994 for liberalising it. Nor will there be a majority in favour when the next Labour Government not only removes the remaining disabilities, but replaces them with privileges. In this question, as in most others, laws have for good or ill been made at the prompting of well-organised pressure groups representing no one but their own members - but skilled in claiming democratic endorsement. Quite often, indeed, these pressure groups have obtained laws, the principle behind which if ever explicitly followed would be fatal to democracy. I think of compulsory state education. The principle behind this is - that most parents are too stupid to see the value of education for their children; and that, even if they do value education, they are unable to decide what kind is best. Now, plainly, if people cannot be trusted to choose properly in a matter that so closely affects them, I do not see what argument there can be for letting them elect a government. And this brings us to the irony of Mill's position. Since 1859, by far the most active and successful of these despotic pressure groups have been the very middle class elites that Mill thought a necessary barrier between the majority and its destruction of all that is noble and good, and that he wanted in his essay on Representative Government to strengthen with double votes and separate representation. Certainly, Mill was right to fear majority government. It is not a harmless - still less a benign - institution. The questions that majorities think important often do require or allow limitations of freedom - the welfare state, together with the taxes and prohibitions on which it rests, is a prime instance. But by far the worst effect has been the confusion of who rules and who is ruled. Majority government has enabled the authoritarians to shield themselves behind the "notion, that the people have no need to limit their power over themselves." (Chap i) This has led to a dangerous erosion of constitutional restraints in the United States, and to their nearly complete atrophy in our own country. As a recent illustration of this tendency, take the War Crimes Act 1993. The Act is retrospective. Even so, it will remain useless until such time as its promoters secure a further dispensing with the rules of common law. This was twice argued by the Judges in the House of Lords. Their arguments were denounced as opposition to the will of the people. Yet, in plain fact, the law expresses this will in hardly any but the formal sense. We might almost as easily call the laws of Augustus and his successors expressions of the popular will because they usually contain some reference to the authority of the Senate and Roman People. In the second place, Mill fails to explain what he means by freedom. In his first chapter, he begins a definition with a great flourish: The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. Speaking for myself, I want a society in which the greatest number of individuals have the greatest permanent chance of avoiding whatever makes them unhappy. I will leave out most steps in the subsequent argument; but if anyone proposes a restraint on individual choice, I ask two questions: First, will the principle derivable from the proposed restraint be one that, applied in all relevant cases, advances or hinders progress towards the society that I want? Second, are there any particular circumstances that make it the lesser of two evils to set aside the answer to the above question, and accept or reject the proposed restraint? Now, this is not "one very simple principle". It explicitly requires an understanding of law, economics, sociology, history, and every other branch of moral philosophy before any prescriptions can confidently be made - and then they can only ever be provisional. I have enjoyed what by most standards has been an unusually long and elaborate education; and it has left me acutely aware of how little understanding I have in these areas. To replace all this with "one very simple principle" would save me a lot of hard thinking and greatly simplify the case for freedom. So what is this "one very simple principle"? It is that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. (Ibid) And here we have it. I must confess that when I first read these words as a boy of 17, I was converted on the spot. They seemed to express everything that I was groping toward. Soon, however, the obvious difficulties crowded in, to leave me a convinced but momentarily perplexed libertarian. What is meant here by "harm"? If my readers grow bored with this review, and put it down unfinished, they are harming me. Many devout Moslems were undeniably harmed by the publication of The Satanic Verses. Those people who boycotted Barclay's Bank so long as it did business in South Africa were harming the shareholders. Anyone who introduces a new piece of machinery into his business, and thereby reduces his need for labour, is harming some of his employees. Moreover, if all these acts are harmful, is it not "self-protection" to do something about them? The usual answer to this objection is to limit the meaning of "harm" to certain classes of act. Mill does try this. In Chapter iv, he allows restraint where "a distinct and assignable obligation to any other person or persons" is violated. A few paragraphs later, he exempts from restraint "conduct which neither violates any specific duty to the public, nor occasions perceptible hurt to any assignable individual except himself". There are further indications throughout the essay that Mill means by "harm" exactly what we all mean; and that he would have had no time for the bigots and social controllers who twist his use of the word to the remotest meanings. The problem, however, is that the "one very simple principle" does not itself contain these limitations. In its normally accepted meaning, the word "harm" can describe the acts that I mention above. If limitations are to be made, they must be derived from other principles which stand alone and which might supersede his "one very simple principle". In fact, after much effort to make his principle generate the applications for which it is clearly intended - and no more - Mill does quietly give up: In many cases, an individual, in pursuing a legitimate object, necessarily and therefore legitimately causes pain or loss to others, or intercepts a good which they had a reasonable hope of obtaining. Such oppositions of interest between individuals often arise from bad social institutions, but are unavoidable while those institutions last; and some would be unavoidable under any institutions. Whoever succeeds in an overcrowded profession, or in a competitive examination; whoever is preferred to another in any contest for an object which both desire, reaps benefit from the loss of others, from their wasted exertion and their disappointment. But it is, by common admission, better for the general interest of mankind, that persons should pursue their objects undeterred by this sort of consequences. In other words, society admits no right, either legal or moral, in the disappointed competitors, to immunity from this kind of suffering; and feels called on to interfere, only when means of success have been employed which it is contrary to the general interest to permit - namely, fraud or treachery, and force. (Chap v) This says more or less what I say above, but uses the more nebulous criterion of the public interest, and is only implicit in its rule-utilitarianism. But, clearly, once Mill states this principle, the one that it is his stated purpose to assert becomes wholly redundant. It is from this latest principle that all the wisdom in his essay derives, not from any nice definitions of "harm". It is easy to laugh at this failure. But has anyone found a better simple principle? I have been told "Thou shalt not commit aggression", and that freedom is the absence of force. I have read much about "consent" and "the equal rights of others". These all contain the truth. But they all break down as self- contained definitions of the truth. Therefore, unless we start talking about natural rights - and how far these will get anyone I will not now provoke my readers by saying - we are left with something like the approach that I describe above, and that Mill finally concedes. It is long-winded, but has the advantage of describing how most libertarians actually think. It explains the agonising over foreign policy and immigration control that according to the orthodox definitions of freedom ought not to happen. This completes my review of what Mill wrote. I will pass now to how well he has here been published. Sadly, there is much to be criticised. In the first place, the scanning of the printed text was imperfectly done. In several places, the scanner read lower case text as upper case. Nowhere does this cause ambiguity, but it is always a nuisance - especially since the WordPerfect spell checker is able to detect and remedy it. Again, in Chapter iv of my printed edition, there is the Greek word pleonexia. This is replaced in the electronic edition by the ellipsis "[greekword]". Although Greek characters cannot go into simple ascii text, there is no reason why they cannot be given a direct Roman transliteration, even if stripped of their accents. By itself, a single omission in the present essay is unimportant. But we are at the beginning of a mass transfer of literature from one medium to another - much of which literature will have quotations in Greek and other languages which use non-ascii characters. It is therefore important for proper scholarly conventions to be established from the start. Finally, the printed edition used was an American one. I have no principled objection to Websterised spellings - they may, after all, become standard English spellings during the next century. Nevertheless, when scanning a text, it strikes me as plain good manners to give those who will be using it as original a version as possible.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kyle van Oosterum

    As the title of this essay suggests, we are dealing with the fundamental social force which when deficient, or when in excess, necessarily provokes chaos; Liberty. Meticulously undertaken, this essay presents the fiercest defence of individualism, captivating the reader with its endorsement of human excellence and self-government. Indeed, Mill's main antagonist is the democratisation of the masses, how we subdue ourselves to the tyranny of public opinion and passively accept mediocrity. Along th As the title of this essay suggests, we are dealing with the fundamental social force which when deficient, or when in excess, necessarily provokes chaos; Liberty. Meticulously undertaken, this essay presents the fiercest defence of individualism, captivating the reader with its endorsement of human excellence and self-government. Indeed, Mill's main antagonist is the democratisation of the masses, how we subdue ourselves to the tyranny of public opinion and passively accept mediocrity. Along the way, I couldn't help but feel this striking dissonance triggered by the notion that individuality is a double-edged sword, glistening with the promise of self-actualisation and ensconcing the egotistical neglect, which inevitably results in social elitism. Regardless, Mill's introductory remark is bound to strike your mind with its brevity and cogency: "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is SOVEREIGN." - J.S. Mill Mill carefully, with no hindrance to his writing style, advances libertarian principles left and right, the most prevalent of which is now referred to as the 'Harm Principle.' The Harm Principle basically states the following: "The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others." It is hardly original, in fact most of us entertain this notion of Liberty consisting of doing whatever we wish without harming others, but Mill's discussion does not end there. The 19th Century did not really house an open society, which explains why Mill's arguments about the freedom of speech and thought might reek of platitudes to the modern reader, but to the contemporary reader, it smacked of anarchy. Mill poetically states that: "Silencing the expression of an opinion is robbing the human race." He defends this eloquently as such: "If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." He goes on to delineate the exact limits that authority/society should have over the individual and his objection is really that odds are that when society interferes, it interferes wrongly. At most, a government or authority may only advise or respectfully discourage an individual's behaviour, but never infringe upon their Liberty. Mill also encourages dissent and opposition because they promote human advancement and he laments the 'despotism of custom' dictating our actions and imposing upon the human race a fear of being different. Mill quickly adds: "That so few dare to be eccentric marks the chief danger of our time!" John Stuart Mill was really a trailblazer in philosophical thought, he endorsed universal education, suffrage, gender equality, freedom of speech, the right to divorce and the separation of church and state. Indeed, the Essay is dedicated heartwarmingly to his wife: "Were I but capable of interpreting to the world one half the great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her all but unrivalled wisdom." The highest recommendation!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Minh

    I FREAKING LOVE, ADORE, UPHOLD, CHERISH, ADMIRE, REVERE (and other synonyms) THIS GODDAMN AWESOME BOOOOOOOOK!!!! If after gay marriage legalisation comes book marriage legalisation I would have considered "On Liberty" one of my top suitors ahahahha. Written in 1859 by John Stuart Mill, this philosophical work examines state authority and individualism, and it was so well written that Thomas Hardy once said "All 1860 undergraduates memorised this book by heart." My political view changes so much I FREAKING LOVE, ADORE, UPHOLD, CHERISH, ADMIRE, REVERE (and other synonyms) THIS GODDAMN AWESOME BOOOOOOOOK!!!! If after gay marriage legalisation comes book marriage legalisation I would have considered "On Liberty" one of my top suitors ahahahha. Written in 1859 by John Stuart Mill, this philosophical work examines state authority and individualism, and it was so well written that Thomas Hardy once said "All 1860 undergraduates memorised this book by heart." My political view changes so much by this, and Mill had certain points which I cannot agree more: (CONTROVERSIAL OPINIONS EXPRESSED BELOW, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK ): religious bigotry is inherently dangerous and should have its separate sphere from politics (hear that, GOP?). Being an atheist I absolutely agree that most religious prejudices directed against others stems primarily from the fact that men believe their Gods are superior and try to enforce morality of their religions on others. Deorum injuriae diis curae, bitch. Secondly, a man should allow to commit self-harm and kill himself without interference from the government or other people . (People can warn him of the consequences, but not stop him from doing it). This I concur to certain stages of abortion, euthanasia, suicide, and assisted suicide. Assisted suicide which had total consent from both parties should not be penalised by the government ( fuck you, America). Mill is also ahead of his time in advocating for women's rights and decentralisation of governmental bureaucracy. He successfully lays the foundation of classical liberalism for other democratic institutions to come, and thus, that's why I am in love with this tour-de-force

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matty-Swytla

    AMAZING. I think Mill's book, and especially his words on free speech, should be given to every student to read and reflect on. I couldn't agree more on the stifling effects of public pressure and blasphemy laws - every idea needs to be evaluated, dissected, and criticised, for it is only in this way that bad ones can be weeded out. People need to think for themselves, to explore, to contemplate, not be moulded into carbon copies of their teachers or relatives, conforming totaly to the majority, AMAZING. I think Mill's book, and especially his words on free speech, should be given to every student to read and reflect on. I couldn't agree more on the stifling effects of public pressure and blasphemy laws - every idea needs to be evaluated, dissected, and criticised, for it is only in this way that bad ones can be weeded out. People need to think for themselves, to explore, to contemplate, not be moulded into carbon copies of their teachers or relatives, conforming totaly to the majority, or blindly follow some religious text. How come we are throwing the freedom of speech we had away? We see more and more how religious rules (and especially blasphemy laws), public correctness, and other censorship stifle free expression of ideas to detrimental effect. I see the West slowly sink into a police state where people are now prosecuted for wrong-think, non-PC speech, and other sundry offences. I don't think it is the job of the police to search for trolls on the internet - they are here to investigate real crime, not people being offended by what some idiot wrote on the internet. But that is exactly what some police forces nowadays do. It's madness. Mill shows us so clearly why herd mentality stifles progress, why personal freedom to live life as you want (with some moderation for other people's freedoms) is so important for humanity's progress. How could anyone disagree with his measured opinions on this? REQUIRED READING. (I definitely need a physical copy of this book for easier annotations.)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    I don't think Mill's ideas are perfect in every single situation, but he makes a convincing argument. In general, I agree with his ideas on the harm principle, individuality, and government. I just think that they break down when taken to the extremes of human behavior that we have seen in various court cases. I took off a star because holy cow. He uses so many words. Too many words. He could benefit from a copy editor. This would have been easier to follow and made more sense if he had stopped I don't think Mill's ideas are perfect in every single situation, but he makes a convincing argument. In general, I agree with his ideas on the harm principle, individuality, and government. I just think that they break down when taken to the extremes of human behavior that we have seen in various court cases. I took off a star because holy cow. He uses so many words. Too many words. He could benefit from a copy editor. This would have been easier to follow and made more sense if he had stopped repeating the same idea in three different ways before making a point. Once is enough.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Valerie

    I read Stephen's masterful review, and decided I should read this. As an ebook...but it will take me a while. Each densely packed sentence is easily a page long. I finally finished this, but I think I'll be rereading it. I wonder what life would be like if I tried to run my classroom on these principles? I read Stephen's masterful review, and decided I should read this. As an ebook...but it will take me a while. Each densely packed sentence is easily a page long. I finally finished this, but I think I'll be rereading it. I wonder what life would be like if I tried to run my classroom on these principles?

  22. 4 out of 5

    André

    Liberty is an issue that concerns us all. It's in everyone's mouth but, frequently, most people prefer to demand it rather than thinking about it in-depth. Mill's "On Liberty", published in 1859, is a powerful essay that highlights the liberty of an individual and the importance of Liberty from a social point of view. The author constitutes his work on five chapters: Introduction; Of the liberty of thought and discussion; On individuality as one of the elements of well-being; On the limits to th Liberty is an issue that concerns us all. It's in everyone's mouth but, frequently, most people prefer to demand it rather than thinking about it in-depth. Mill's "On Liberty", published in 1859, is a powerful essay that highlights the liberty of an individual and the importance of Liberty from a social point of view. The author constitutes his work on five chapters: Introduction; Of the liberty of thought and discussion; On individuality as one of the elements of well-being; On the limits to the authority of society over the individual; Applications. “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” Mill starts his essay by addressing the classic struggle between the individual and society. Individuals are compelled to live according to beliefs, customs and opinions. Consequently, that can restraint the liberty of choice of an individual (Tyranny of the majority). In Mill's perspective, the tyranny of the majority can be quite overwhelming to each one of us. For instance, if Governments have the power by force, criticism and judgment can be inflicted on individuals who act differently according to society's standards. Liberty also has its limits. According to the author, there are some actions which affect directly ourselves and actions which directly affect others. Those actions which affect ourselves are based on personal decisions but with personal consequences. On the other hand, those actions which affect others are the border of our liberty. If governments have the power to incarcerate people for harming others, Freedom of thought and expression should be unconstrained by the states. Mill claims that healthy disagreements, a new set of ideas, freedom of thought are crucial for society's progress. For that reason, free expression shouldn't be suppressed ("In suppressing an idea a society runs the risk that it is suppressing the truth"). Liberty of thought can contribute to the cultivation of individuality. The author affirms the importance of that cultivation as something essential for social progress. Accordingly, the "tyranny of the majority" can gain control over the individual ("In this age, the mere example of nonconformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service"). Mill claims that Liberty can be a misunderstanding issue with different challenges between the individual and a greater good. The last chapter deals with the applications of all these principles in different subjects (Economy, Ethics, Sociology). “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” Mill's essay, though being a great source of inspiration regarding personal freedom, also presents some flaws and contradictions. For instance, If one individual decides to harm himself and has the liberty do it so, doesn't that go against the values of individual happiness? In theory, utility can be the answer. However, if life is a personal right, there may be a contradiction between individual rights and individual freedom. Mill's principles appliance in Economy is another point that leaves some criticism. He states that Governments should not interfere. Realistically, nowadays, it's not possible. If that was the case we wouldn't have financial bailouts. Overall, On Liberty is a hymn to free speech. Throughout our History, eccentric and genius personalities have changed our world. In a way or another, it is that type of unconformity that gets the best of ourselves. For instance, it's not a coincidence that the most exceptional artists were not conformed to society's standards. It's the bizarre and the unusual that fuelled the greatest work of arts. If we are responsible for our actions, then, everyone must emphasize his individuality. At the end, it's our eccentric qualities that makes us thrive in difficult situations. Rating: 4/5 stars

  23. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    An indisputably great work of philosophy. One, though, whose most valuable insights are too often ignored by today's left-liberals and one that is mentioned with astonishing frequency these days by people who seem to be actively opposed to much that Mill would have thought important--the set of "conservatives" who like to claim that they are "classical liberals," probably on the basis of a quick read through a Wikipedia page and some creepy Randian blogs. Of course, Millian liberalism actually s An indisputably great work of philosophy. One, though, whose most valuable insights are too often ignored by today's left-liberals and one that is mentioned with astonishing frequency these days by people who seem to be actively opposed to much that Mill would have thought important--the set of "conservatives" who like to claim that they are "classical liberals," probably on the basis of a quick read through a Wikipedia page and some creepy Randian blogs. Of course, Millian liberalism actually shares quite a significant number of characteristics of social liberalism, of welfare liberalism, etc. and in many ways it contains proto-social democratic positions. There are two that occur to me as ways to account for the strange fate of the British liberal tradition and of thought inspired by Mill specifically, both of which seem valid to me. One is to suggest that it is deeply worrying and borderline Orwellian that societies built on liberal principles have ignored one of Mill's central points: that a successful liberal culture and society is one that demands real work, real effort, serious engagement on the part of individuals. That it is one that demands diversity of opinion and specifically of learned opinion. Perhaps what we are seeing now is some dystopic world, a realization of what liberalism is doomed to when it keeps its institutions and formal arrangements but ignores the rest of its contents and the government policies that are necessary to produce a populace capable of being good liberals to begin with. The other, and I am more partial to this way of accounting for the sorry state of things, is to point out--very reasonably, I think--that Mill's profoundly beautiful vision of personal autonomy and freedom extended to all is every bit as utopian and unrealistic a notion as immediate transition to fully automated luxury communism. The biggest blind spot that Mill had was the same blind spot that other bourgie guys in the 19th century had: they failed to account for the coercive power of the merchant class because they were members of the merchant class. It is not true that Mill was some scheming sly bastard who only ever wanted people exactly like him to have the liberty he describes. His proto-socdem positions show that. But what Mill seems to have failed to realize was that the merchant class and its financialized successors would use its liberty (and make no mistake, that is the class of persons that Mill wants liberty for in any immediate sense) in ways that either intentionally or unintentionally undermine--for the remainder of humans--the very grounds for human flourishing that Mill so prized. The ability of the free human to live her life in a manner chosen by her, not by the state, not by the majority, not by family, not by the church: surely admirable, surely important. But what of influence and power and domination by the very merchant class that 18th and 19th century liberals empowered? In short and despite how annoying many of the people who say things like this might be, Millian liberalism is insufficient because it creates the basis mostly for the flourishing and independence and creative freedom and meaningful liberty of people like John Stuart Mill. There are also broader philosophical problems. Is the harm principle unable to account for harm outside of the atomized, small-scale picture according to which liberalism operates theoretically? That is to say: doesn't it fail to account for possible harms to things and persons that don't fit into the category of the liberal subject? Beyond that: if the behaviour of people collectively is beneficial to that group of people and not harmful to other proximate liberal subjects in any immediate sense but is deeply, even catastrophically, harmful to non-humans, to the environment, and to future generations of humans, does the harm principle have anything to offer to counter such destructive behaviour? Is it not insufficient as a restriction on liberty? Not to say that we throw the baby out with the bathwater and return to fascism and stalinism; the 20th century (not to mention present currents of trumpism, putinism, islamism, etc) is proof enough of how undesirable the actively illiberal is.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nina Kennett

    good pts, but i just cant even with the utilitarist arguments. i owe nada to society, john.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sumirti Singaravel

    Never have Liberty found such a passionate, clear, beautiful and eloquent defence. There are few books which has the capacity to instill the faith that written words can change the world, if they are done well, and this is one such book. This should remain as a source of greatest inspiration for all those who want to defend truth and guard their true-selves at all the times. Here is a man who rebels with grace, kindness, and consideration. A book to read to realize how much of freedom we enjoy t Never have Liberty found such a passionate, clear, beautiful and eloquent defence. There are few books which has the capacity to instill the faith that written words can change the world, if they are done well, and this is one such book. This should remain as a source of greatest inspiration for all those who want to defend truth and guard their true-selves at all the times. Here is a man who rebels with grace, kindness, and consideration. A book to read to realize how much of freedom we enjoy today is a product of the works and fight of many a great men, and how much of the fight is still left to be done. A reading I would treasure for a lifetime. A full and complete review soon.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Doc Opp

    This is a brilliant book. It should be required reading in every high school in America, and anybody who disagrees with the premises and arguments within should be subject to legal sanction. ;)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stephan

    ‘On liberty’ by John Stuart Mill is by far the best account I have ever read so far concerning the protection of individual rights. Mill is en exponent of liberty, not of democracy, because democracy is imperfect, whereas liberty is not. Liberty is perfect thus democracy should aspire towards liberty and not vice versa. Many people speak about democracy as if it was liberty, but it is not, and can never be. Democracy is a pragmatic system that attempts liberty. Mill mentions the greatest challen ‘On liberty’ by John Stuart Mill is by far the best account I have ever read so far concerning the protection of individual rights. Mill is en exponent of liberty, not of democracy, because democracy is imperfect, whereas liberty is not. Liberty is perfect thus democracy should aspire towards liberty and not vice versa. Many people speak about democracy as if it was liberty, but it is not, and can never be. Democracy is a pragmatic system that attempts liberty. Mill mentions the greatest challenge and conflict between individual independence and social control. He suggests how to find a fitting adjustment to such a challenge. Mill also mentions the betrayal of politicians when they sit in power and make decisions based on vanities that have no concern to the benefit of the public. I’ve come to think about contemporary politician and their corruptions, and how they are dealing chiefly with higher pay checks and more benefits for themselves on the account of the public. Such politicians are the epitome of predatory opportunism and selfishness. The people who run society are themselves predators, tyrants and manipulators who hide behind the guise of democracy. But in reality they serve the jungle law with their selfish ambitions and greedy agendas. Mill puts it mildly as 'The fallibility of moral sense’. Mill also speaks against intolerance and bigotry of authorities, religious or political, particularly their refusals to accept other folks’ opinions and background like creed, race, and culture etc. Diversity is the enemy of the intolerant bigot. The differences in people are those which make intolerance feast on the weak and powerless. Mill mentions ‘Odium theologicum’ which is hatred of other religions and faiths. The bigotry of religious people is similar to the bigotry of tyrants. Mill’s poignant criticism in expressed later on against religious people and their mad persecutions of atheists; anyone who was a non believer was called an infidel, thereupon eliminated. Mill advocates for tolerance and for freedom of religion; everyone should enjoy the right to be an atheist. His guidance is that folks should not impose their opinions on others. I have enjoyed this book so much because it contained so many moral gems, which in my view should be a must read for all lawyers and judges in the world. I furthermore enjoyed Mill's advocacy for freedoms of thought and expression, freedom of discussion, freedom of assembly, and the freedom to be different, and even eccentric. Mill criticizes the madness of dogmatism and points out the dangers of mediocrity and homogeneity. Mill, moreover, mentions the exceptions to the general rules, like the fact that government should be able to use force when freedom of expression is posing danger to democracy. On thought and discussion Mill says at one point ‘Diversity is not evil, but good…’ ‘But the evil is, that individual spontaneity is hardly recognized by the common modes of thinking, as having any intrinsic worth, or deserving any regard on its own account’. Empirically speaking I know exactly what Mill is talking about here, as in Denmark it is a crime to be different than the mainstream, and/or simply being an individual whom is not associated with any specified uncivilized group. Mill criticizes people who turn into machines in society when they adapt to the madness of dogmatism in society: ‘One whose desires and impulses are not his own, has no character, no more than a steam engine has a character’ Mill criticizes furthermore the madness of conformity and the automatic choice of people in doing what is ‘Customary’ instead of using their own judgment. Thus, Mill’s advocacy for non conformism is ideal for any individual who wishes to preserve his own natural character, humanism, identity, culture, personality, individualism, etc. I was truly impressed with Mill’s arguments, and I agree with most of them. Mill also emphasizes the importance of culture and the importance of originality. Being original is what makes one safe from dogmatism. Therefore it is so important to preserve individuality. Being original is safeguarding democracy and it is healthy for a free society. Mill asserts: ‘Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as individuality exists under it…’ In the last chapter ‘Applications’ Mill calls attention to diversity of education and diversity of opinions. He warns also against the unduly power of the bureaucracy. Mill warns against the abuse of such a despotic power, for the individual is completely powerless when one is dealing with the system. He states: ‘But where everything is done through the bureaucracy, nothing to which the bureaucracy is really adverse can be done at all’ Once more, from experience I agree with Mill. The bureaucracy should not exceed its powers. The bureaucracy should not enjoy an unlimited legitimate power to violate human rights and abuse the individual. Mill also advocates for eccentricity and for the right to be a genius in society. He wrote it brilliantly in chapter three ‘Of Individuality’: ’ Persons of genius, it is true, are, and are always likely to be, a small minority; but in order to have them, it is necessary to preserve the soil in which they grow. Genius can only breathe freely in an atmosphere of freedom. Persons of genius are, ex vi termini, more individual than any other people—less capable, consequently, of fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides in order to save its members the trouble of forming their own character. If from timidity they consent to be forced into one of these moulds, and to let all that part of themselves which cannot expand under the pressure remain unexpanded, society will be little the better for their genius. If they are of a strong character, and break their fetters, they become a mark for the society which has not succeeded in reducing them to commonplace, to point at with solemn warning as "wild," "erratic," and the like; much as if one should complain of the Niagara river for not flowing smoothly between its banks like a Dutch canal’ That explains why I have never adapted to Denmark http://www.bt.dk/krimi/forfatter-maa-... Now, I could not possibly publish all of my notes on Mill’s account here due to limited space. My blog is insufficient as well. However, all in all, I have found this book as the best account ever in moral virtue and the most suitable and appealing to my views of a free society and human rights. Highly recommended to all humanists and followers of a free society

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marts (Thinker)

    John Stuart Mill's discourse on social liberties regarding the nature of power exercised over an individual within a society, an issues between civil liberty and authority... I rather appreciate the closing statement of the work: "A government cannot have too much of the kind of activity which does not impede, but aids and stimulates, individual exertion and development. The mischief begins when, instead of calling forth the activity and powers of individuals and bodies, it substitutes its own ac John Stuart Mill's discourse on social liberties regarding the nature of power exercised over an individual within a society, an issues between civil liberty and authority... I rather appreciate the closing statement of the work: "A government cannot have too much of the kind of activity which does not impede, but aids and stimulates, individual exertion and development. The mischief begins when, instead of calling forth the activity and powers of individuals and bodies, it substitutes its own activity for theirs; when, instead of informing, advising, and upon occasion denouncing, it makes them work in fetters or bids them stand aside and does their work instead of them. The worth of a State, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it; and a State which postpones the interests of their mental expansion and elevation, to a little more of administrative skill or that semblance of it which practice gives, in the details of business; a State, which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything, will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Khari

    Huzzah! I have finished. This book took me forever to read. Four months, can you believe that? I can't. A mere 187 pages taking 4 months?! Unbelievable. I forgive myself somewhat though, because the diction of this book is incredibly dense. The ideas that he is talking about require thought and consideration, so I don't blame myself for taking so long. I quite enjoyed the book. It's the first time I've read it, and so it was interesting to read the seminal document for the importance of the freedom Huzzah! I have finished. This book took me forever to read. Four months, can you believe that? I can't. A mere 187 pages taking 4 months?! Unbelievable. I forgive myself somewhat though, because the diction of this book is incredibly dense. The ideas that he is talking about require thought and consideration, so I don't blame myself for taking so long. I quite enjoyed the book. It's the first time I've read it, and so it was interesting to read the seminal document for the importance of the freedom of speech and thought. Reading it really helped solidify my own views and to understand why I held them. There are some places where I have to disagree with him, of course, I don't think there is any person alive in this world with whom I can agree absolutely, but it was still a valuable experience to read this book and I highly recommend it. Those who find themselves being seduced by the ideas of safe spaces and hate speech laws especially should read this book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Wright

    This book is still well worth reading for its still-relevant defense of freedom of speech alone. Some of the later parts let it down slightly, especially on education. But the whole of this book is important for understanding the history behind how liberalism got to be how it is.

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