John Stuart Mill 1806-1873 Son of James Mill



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John Stuart Mill

  • 1806-1873

  • Son of James Mill (both he and Jeremy Bentham stand as the theorists of Utilitarianism)

  • Received an extraordinary (experimental) education designed by his father

  • Travels to France

  • 1823-1858 Worked for the East India Company

  • 1865-8 Member of Parliament

  • Main Works: System of Logic (1834), Political Economy (1848), On Liberty (1859), Utilitarianism (1861), The Subjection of Women (1869)


One of the most enthusiastic reviewers of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (friends)

  • One of the most enthusiastic reviewers of de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America (friends)

    • ≈ de Tocqueville, in that Mill also sees the problems, vices, and shortcomings of democratic society
  • The most important philosophical Liberal (in the British tradition) of the 19th century.

    • Influences on Libertarianism
  • Mill took distance from Utilitarianism, explored Romanticism, and returned to Utilitarianism while becoming a (utopian and reformist) socialist.

  • Faith in Progress

  • Mill admired the Ancient Greeks and the Socratic method



On Liberty Introduction

  • Subject: Civil or Social Liberty

  • Problem: “the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual.”(586)

  • Liberty  Authority (through History)



Ancient Times

  • Subjects/the Government

  • Liberty = Protection from Tyranny & limits to power

  • Aim: to set limits to the power of the Ruler/Master

  • Methods:

    • Immunities & Recognition of Rights (Ex: Magna Carta or Charter; medieval charters)
    • (Constitutional) Checks


Modern Times: Shift

  • The Gvt. begins to be understood as representing the People’s interests

  • Rulers = “Tenants or Delegates”

  • “What was now wanted was, that the rulers should be identified with the people; that their interest and will should be the interest and will of the nation.The nation did not need to be protected against its own will. There was no fear of its tyrannising itself.” (587)

  • Loose controls, because…

    • The Gvt.’s power = the Nation’s power


Rousseau?

  • “The notion, that the people have no need to limit their power over themselves, might seem axiomatic, when popular government was a thing only dreamed about, or read of as having existed at some distant period of the past.” (587)

  • European Liberalism



The spread of Liberal Democracy creates new problems

  • But “a democratic republic came to occupy a large portion of the earth’s surface…[and] It was now perceived that such phrases as ‘self-government’, and ‘the power of the people over themselves,’ do not express the true state of the case.” (587)



“The ‘people’ who exercise the power are not always the same people with those over whom it is exercised; and the ‘self-government’ spoken of is not the government of each by himself, but of each by all the rest.” (Mill 587)

  • “The ‘people’ who exercise the power are not always the same people with those over whom it is exercised; and the ‘self-government’ spoken of is not the government of each by himself, but of each by all the rest.” (Mill 587)

  • De Maistre:

  • “The people is sovereign, they say; and over whom? Over itself apparently. The people is therefore subject. There is surely something equivocal here, if not an error, for the people that commands is not the people that obeys. “The people, they will say, exercises its sovereignty by means of its representatives. We begin to understand. The people is a sovereign that cannot exercise sovereignty.”

  • Agamben: The People/the people



Rousseau &  Madison:

  • Rousseau &  Madison:

  • “The will of the people... Practically means the will of the most numerous or the most active part of the people...; the people, consequently may desire to oppress a part of their number; and precautions are as much needed against this as against any other abuse of power.” (587)



The tyranny of the majority was thus first recognized in the Gvt., but “Society can and does execute its own mandates; and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right,… it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression...” (588)



THERE IS A NEED FOR PROTECTION “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...” (588)



Need of placing LIMITS against the despotism of -the State -Civil Society (ex: religion) Practical Question: WHERE to place the limit (no universal agreement) (588)



“The object of this essay is...



“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.” (588)



Power can be exercised over individuals and against their will ONLY... “to prevent harm to others.” (588) the conduct “from which it is desired to deter him must be calculated to produce evil to someone else.” (12)



“The only part of the conduct of anyone, 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.” (588)



Sovereignty

  • Compare Mill’s use of the word sovereignty with Bodin’s, Hobbes’, and Rousseau’s.



Restriction: “…this doctrine is meant to apply only to human beings in the maturity of their faculties.” (588)



“For the same reason, we may leave out of consideration those backward states of society in which the race itself may be considered as in its nonage.” (588) “Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians...” (588) Justification of British Colonialism?



“Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind have become capable of being improved by free and equal discussion.” (589)



Conceptual precision or recreation of the grammar of Bios/zoē?



Mill’s Utilitarianism: “I regard utility as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of a man as a progressive being.” (589)



Basic Freedoms (589-90)

  • Liberty of conscience

  • Liberty of thought and feeling

  • Freedom of opinion and sentiment

  • Liberty of tastes and pursuits

  • Freedom of association

  • No society where these liberties are not respected is free –says Mill.



Freedom of the press/against censorship

  • “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 the one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” (591)

  • Censorship is evil because of “robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation” from that perspective (591)

  • Flawed assumption: “All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility” (591)



Freedom of opinion is necessary because

  • The silenced opinion may be true

  • The silenced opinion “may, and very commonly it does, contain a portion of truth” (608)

  • Even if the silenced opinion is false, its suppression only leads to the the loss of vitality of the truth, which becomes then held as DOGMA or PREJUDICE, and

  • The true doctrine may be lost



Parochial

  • Seeking to reinforce our own judgments, we rely on the authority of “the world.” But

  • “…the world, to each individual, means the part of it with which he comes in contact: his party, his sect, his church, his class of society: the man may be called, by comparison, almost liberal and large-minded to whom it means anything so comprehensive as his own country or his own age.” (591)



Human nature

  • “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.” (610)



The exercise of freedom (& judgment)

  • “He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties.” (610)

  • “A person whose desires and impulses are his own… is said to have a character.” (610-11)

  • “Among the works of man, which human life is rightly employed in perfecting and beautifying, the first in importance surely is man himself.” (610)



Christian Morality (& Calvinism)

  • “That mankind owe a great debt to this morality, and to its early teachers, I should be the last person to deny; but Ido not scruple to say of it, that it is, in many important points, incomplete and one-sided, and that unless ideas and feelings, not sanctioned by it, had contributed to the formation of European life and character, human affairs would have been in a worse condition than they now are.” (606)



Truth

  • Human truths are “for the most part… only half-truths” (608)

  • (therefore) “unity of opinion, unless resulting from the fullest and freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable, and diversity not an evil, but a good…” (608)



Dangers of modern democracy:

  • “…society has now fairly got the better of individuality; and the danger which threatens human nature is not the excess, but the deficiency, or personal impulses and preferences.” (611)

  • “In sober truth, whatever homage may be professed, or even paid, to real or supposed mental superiority, the general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind.” (613)



The Masses’ “public opinion”

  • “In politics is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world. The only power deserving the name is that of masses, and of governments while they make themselves the organ of the tendencies and instincts of masses.”(614)



Individuals, genius, individuality

  • “The initiation of all wise or noble things, comes and must come from individuals; generally at first from some one individual.” (614)

  • “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.” (613)



The State

  • “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… a State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments.. 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 int he 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.” (614)




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