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English 102 Literature - Essay Example

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The American independence in 1776 influenced most wise minds and their writings of that time. It was almost a second French Revolution with the same slogan of "liberty" and "fraternity". America achieved its independence thirty years before John Stuart Mill was born…
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English 102 Literature

Download file to see previous pages... The chapter opens with Mill's rhetorical question of where should the line of control be drawn between "the authority of society" and individual "sovereignty". Mill provides the answer to this question in the very next sentence saying that what concerns the individuals should "belong" to them and society has a control on that part "which chiefly interests" it. Here, Mill does not, however, elaborate on what could be those areas of society's interest. After ruling out the possibility of the society being based on a 'contract', the author still thinks that the individuals owe the other members of the society "a return for the benefit" of the protection that the society provides. The individuals cannot be allowed to harm other people's interests. Rather they should play their part in protecting them against injury. If individuals act in a way that mars other people's welfare, even if they are not illegal, they may be "punished by opinion." Here, public opinion is suggested to be a substitute for law when necessary. Mill writes, "These conditions society is justified in enforcing at all costs to those who endeavor to withhold fulfillment". When a person's conduct affects only his interests, however, Mill says, that person should be allowed "to do the action and stand the consequences". There is no justification for society's meddling.
After setting After setting the boundary line for the society, Mill goes on to clear his standpoint by saying, "It would be a great misunderstanding of this doctrine to suppose that it is one of selfish indifference, which pretends that human beings have no business with each other's conduct in life, and that they should not concern themselves about the well-doing or well-being of one another" he declares that "It is equally the business of education to cultivate" in the students the feelings of compassion for the fellow human beings and the sense of responsibility to the society. Individuals are indebted to each other. They should help and encourage each other in bringing about the best of themselves. But no individual should dictate terms to another simply because "He is the person most interested in his own well-being" and also because he better understands his circumstances that make him behave in a certain way than anyone else or the society in general. Others can offer their advice and suggestions but cannot take any decision on behalf of the person. If the individual allows others to take his decisions, then that might cause greater harm than if he takes a decision against the popular belief.

Next, Mill talks about the freedom of opinion. Suppression of public opinion by the government can only lead to concealment of truth. By this Mill does not mean that public opinion is never wrong or biased, but at least the opinions that are wrong can be challenged to arrive at the truth. Here, Mill uses an interesting adjective that is, "self-regarding" which means concerning solely the individual, and advocates that in these self-regarding matters the government or the society has no right to interfere. However, sensing attack against this viewpoint, Mill immediately clarifies saying that this should not stop a well wisher of an individual from warning him against the harm he might cause himself by behaving in certain way even if it is about the self-regarding affairs. Similarly, every individual has the right to and duty of cautioning any individual against the possible ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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