Short notes on J.S. Mill’s concept of liberty

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J.S. Mill was a staunch proponent of individual liberty. His essay “On Liberty” remains one of the finest treatises ever written on the idea of freedom. Liberty for him is the life breath of society.

Kinds of Liberty:

Mill identifies two kinds of liberty: negative and positive. In its negative sense, liberty imply non- restriction in the activities of the individual. Positively it implies area within which individuals can use their energies for creative activities and self-development. Self-Regarding and Other-Regarding Actions

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According to Mill, in case of a clash between an individual’s opinions with that of the community, the individual will be the ultimate judge unless the community can convince him without threat to violence or coercion. Moreover, he makes differentiation between self-regarding and other-regarding actions. He favoured complete freedom of conduct for the individual in the sphere of self-regarding actions unless it was dangerous to him. With respect to ‘other-regarding actions’. Mill conceded the right of the community to coerce the individual if his conduct was contrary to its welfare.

Threats to Liberty:

Mill identifies threat to liberty mainly from two sources one, state laws that could restrict freedom and two, society which expresses the general but unorganized opinion. But, he accepts reasonable interference to individual liberty to prevent harm to other people. Kinds of Liberty

Mill discusses liberty broadly under the following two heads: Firstly, The liberty to thought and expression. Secondly, Liberty of tastes and pursuits.

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