Chapter I defines civil liberty as the limit that must be set on society’s power over each individual. Mill undertakes a historical review of the concept of liberty, beginning with ancient Greece and Rome and proceeding to England. In the past, liberty meant primarily protection from tyranny. Over time, the meaning of liberty changed along with the role of rulers, who came to be seen as servants of the people rather than masters. This evolution brought about a new problem: the tyranny of the majority, in which a democratic majority forces its will on the minority. This state of affairs can exercise a tyrannical power even outside the political realm, when forces such as public opinion stifle individuality and rebellion. Here, society itself becomes the tyrant by seeking to inflict its will and values on others. Next, Mill observes that liberty can be divided into three types, each of which must be recognized and respected by any free society. First, there is the liberty of thought and opinion. The second type is the liberty of tastes and pursuits, or the freedom to plan our own lives. Third, there is the liberty to join other like-minded individuals for a common purpose that does not hurt anyone. Each of these freedoms negates society’s propensity to compel compliance.
Chapter II examines the question of whether one or more persons should be able to curtail another person’s freedom to express a divergent point of view. Mill argues that any such activity is illegitimate, no matter how... [continues]
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