On Liberty

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Longmans, Green, and Company, 1913 - Liberty - 68 pages
From the Introduction In his Autobiography, Mill predicts that the essay On Liberty is "likely to survive longer than anything else that I have written." He goes on to say that the essay is the expression of a "single truth: " "the importance, to man and society, of a large variety of types of character, and of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions." In the essay itself, Mill defines his subject as "the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual." He defends the absolute freedom of individuals to engage in conduct not harmful to others, and the near-absolute freedom to express and discuss opinions of all kinds. Mill's essay survives, as he had predicted, because his powerful message is still widely rejected by the powerful, and by those who continue to seek power over the lives of others.
 

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Page 6 - That principle 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...
Page 34 - Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develop itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.
Page 36 - Thus the mind itself is bowed to the yoke: even in what people do for pleasure, conformity is the first thing thought of; they like in crowds; they exercise choice only among things commonly done: peculiarity of taste, eccentricity of conduct, are shunned equally with crimes: until by dint of not following their own nature they have no nature to follow: their human capacities are withered and starved: they become incapable of any strong wishes or native pleasures, and are generally without either...
Page 7 - Secondly, the principle requires liberty of tastes and pursuits; of framing the plan of our life to suit our own character; of doing as we like, subject to such consequences as may follow: without impediment from our fellow-creatures, so long as what we do does not harm them, even though they should think our conduct foolish, perverse, or wrong.
Page 3 - There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence ; and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.
Page 33 - It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself. Where, not the person's own character, but the traditions or customs of other people are the rule of conduct, there is wanting one of the principal ingredients of human happiness, and quite the chief ingredient of individual and social progress.
Page 41 - The spirit of improvement is not always a spirit of liberty, for it may aim at forcing improvements on an unwilling people ; and the spirit of liberty, in so far as it resists such attempts, may ally itself locally and temporarily with the opponents of improvement ; but the only unfailing and permanent source of improvement is liberty, since by it there are as many possible independent centers of improvement as there are individuals.
Page 61 - ... any future use of it, beyond that single act. He therefore defeats, in his own case, the very purpose which is the justification of allowing him to dispose of himself.
Page 6 - It is, perhaps, hardly necessary to say that this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties. We are not speaking of children, or of young persons below the age which the law may fix as that of manhood or womanhood.
Page 62 - That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands, I go as far as any one in deprecating. All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people...

About the author (1913)

John Stuart Mill, Classical economist, was born in 1806. His father was the Ricardian economist, James Mill. John Stuart Mill's writings on economics and philosophy were prodigious. His "Principles of Political Economy, With Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy," published in 1848, was the leading economics textbook of the English-speaking world during the second half of the 19th century. Some of Mill's other works include "Considerations on Representative Government," "Auguste Comte and Positivism," "The Subjection of Women," and "Three Essays on Religion." John Mill died in 1873.

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