Tuesday, September 16, 2008

John Stuart Mill "On Liberty"

Mill’s idea of individual liberty was mostly based on the relationship between one another. As he said, “the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it.” His standard of freedom was not high above, but simply not to harm others. According to this logic, “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.” In other words, the power should exist for and only for providing freedom to its member.

Through his article, I feel Mill put a heavy weight on individualism. Such as “among the works of man, the first in importance surely is man himself,” and “in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself.” Though he never forgot “others,” the individual was always the first thing. I guess the American society is a great example of his belief. Sometimes it works very well, when everyone tries to achieve the best as she can, thus resulting in a better society. But many other times I doubt, when everyone just works for her own interests or for her own good, where the common good comes from? Don’t we need to care for others, or take more social responsibility? I haven’t figured out the answer yet.

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