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Mills' Views on Liberalism & Human Freedom


John Stuart Mill' s views on liberalism and human freedom were born out of the English intellectual group known as the Philosophical Radicals. According to one of the groups strongest defenders, Jeremy Bentham, the goal of society was to promote the greatest happiness for the greatest number. By comparison with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States, there is nothing at all unusual about this idea. Indeed, the ideas of Adam Smith, which reflect the capitalistic laissez-faire version of following ones bliss, is alive and well in most first world societies. John Stuart Mill went much further than most in defining with specificity what our human freedoms are, as reflected in his liberal views (Beatty & Johnson, 1995).

As Beatty and Johnson (1985) point out , a major feature of liberalism is a kind of selfishness, which serves both the individual and society at large. In essence, if each person is free to pursue the path that brings the most satisfaction, then they can not help but bring the best part of themselves into the everyday world. Mill' s work, in On Liberty, is about defining the real-life boundaries, of such a philosophy. Mill is quite specific as to where the individual and society intersect, as regards liberty:

The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. (Mill, p.198)

Mill goes on to specify that society in certain stages, must allow despotism. He explains that individuals may not be ready to be lead by the freedoms of liberalism. However, Mill also points out that "as soon as mankind have attained the capacity of being guided" by their own consciousness, then despotic forms of government are no longer usefu...

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Mills' Views on Liberalism & Human Freedom. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 08:20, February 20, 2017, from