Freedom: John Stuart Mill

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1. John Stuart Mill: Freedom

Freedom is generally defined, by a dictionary, as the condition or right of being able or allowed to do, say, think, etc. whatever you want to, without being controlled or limited (Cambridge). This means there is no interference or influence in ones’ actions or opinions by anyone else. There is no domination or dictatorial government who affects these actions or opinions. John Stuart Mill, an English philosopher and economist, gives a similar view on freedom as the Cambridge dictionary, and looks at the ‘nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual’ (Mill, 6). Mill’s view of freedom, as he writes in his book On Liberty, is that “Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign,” (Mill, 13). By this he means that an individual is free when they make independent choices, have independent opinions and have independent actions. When a person thinks and acts without the influence of outside opinion, a person exercises his or her own freedom. Mill divides human liberty into three regions. The first is the ‘domain of the conscience’ and ‘liberty of thought and feeling,’ (Mill, 15). The second is the ‘liberty of tastes and pursuits,’ and ‘framing the plan of your life’ (Mill, 16). The third region is ‘the freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others’ (Mill, 16). He states that if a society has a respect for these three regions of human liberty, then a society is free (Mill, 16). ‘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’ (Mill, 16). However, he states that if an individual exercises their freedom in a way that threatens harm to another, there should be interference to prevent harm from being done. He asserts that the only time anyone can interfere with or exercise power over an individual’s liberty is...
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