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On Liberty (Broadview Literary Texts) Paperback – Jan 1 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Broadview Press (1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1551111993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1551111995
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 21.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #559,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 8 1997
Format: Paperback
John Stuart Mill, while not the greatest philosopher ever to walk the earth, is the one philosopher that I have studied thus far that really motivated me to become politically active and responsible to my own actions. In his essay, "On Liberty" Mill outlines the boundaries of government and private lives. In short: as long as you do not hurt anyone, you are free to do as you please. Of course, Mill manages to mention a few damaging exceptions to his rule, but the part of his essay that really spoke to me and awoke the activist within was his examination of free expression. What Mill maintains, and I think this is very sound thinking, is that all ideas may be expressed and should never, under any circumstances (except, of course, for one), be silenced by a government. All expressions, whether they be unpopular or dangerous to the government, must have the protection of the state. The reasons for this, he says are many, most notably, that popular conceptions that people have presently tend to die and become less powerful without the challenge of unpopular thought. I witnessed this very circumstance within myself very recently, and I have rebelled against my earlier lethargy and I am ready to take on the world and work to make it a freer and more constructive (rather than destructive) place. This then ties into the essay "Utilitariansim" where Mill tries to prove that the best thing for society is the greatest pleasure and the least amount of pain. While not quite so cut and dry as it may seem, Mill definitely does have an enticing idea on the general welfare of the people. This book, while some may find it dangerous and distasteful, should be read by anyone wanting equality and the freest possible society
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By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on July 8 2004
Format: Paperback
It is surprising to me how many people assume that 'On Liberty' was written before or during the American Revolution - Mill was certainly influenced by the spirit of American liberty, which was variously romanticised and adapted in Britain and Europe during the nineteenth century. Published in 1859, 'On Liberty' is one of the primary political texts of the nineteenth century; perhaps only the writings of Marx had a similar impact, and of the two, in today's world, Mill's philosophy seems the one that is triumphant.
One of the interesting ideas behind 'On Liberty' is that this may in fact be more the inspiration of Harriet Taylor (later Mrs. J.S. Mill) than of Mill himself; Taylor wrote an essay on Toleration, most likely in 1832, but it remained unpublished until after her death. F.A. Hayek (free-market economist and philosopher) noticed this connection. Whether this was the direct inspiration or not, the principles are similar, and the Mills were rather united in their views about liberty.
'On Liberty' is more of an extended essay than a book - it isn't very long (104 pages of the text in the Norton Critical Edition, edited by David Spitz). It relates as a political piece to his general Utilitarianism and political reform ideology. A laissez faire capitalist in political economy, his writing has been described as 'improved Adam Smith' and 'popularised Ricardo'. Perhaps it is in part the brevity of 'On Liberty' that gives it an enduring quality.
There are five primary sections to the text. The introduction sets the stage philosophically and historically. He equates the histories of classical civilisations (Greece and Rome) with his contemporary England, stating that the struggle between liberty and authority is ever present and a primary feature of society.
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By M. B. Alcat TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 7 2004
Format: Paperback
John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was interested in the nature of Civil Liberty, and the limits to the power that a Government can legitimately exercise upon its citizens. He believed that some worrying tendencies could be observed in the England society of his time, and tried to warn others about them.
The author basically explains his ideas regarding the preservation of individual liberties, not only due to the fact that they are rights owed to everyone, but also because they benefit society as a whole.
For example, when he says that liberty of thought and of discussion must be preserved, he tells us that "Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument: but fact and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it". How can mistaken beliefs or actions be proven wrong, if dissent is forbidden?. The loss for society is clear: "If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error".
In order to preserve the liberties included in the concept of Civil Liberty, the author points out that there must be limits to the action of the Government. He says that "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". Any other reason is simply not good enough. Thus, Stuart Mill highlights the rights of the individual, but also the limit to those rights: the well-being of others.
"On Liberty" is not too long, and I think you are highly likely to enjoy it, if you can get past the first few pages.
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