John Stuart Mill on Individual Liberty Essay

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John Stuart Mill on Individual Liberty

Definition of Individual liberty

In his work On Liberty, Mill placed much emphasis on individual liberty and its vital role in political society. To Mill, this phrase may be defined as the liberty of the individual to be the final judge over his actions; to decide what is right and wrong and to act upon that standard. On a secondary level, it also implies one's freedom to pursue one's own individuality. Mill believed in a society in which each individual leads his own distinctive life according to his own unique talents; unfettered by regulations upon thought, opinion, actions etc.

However, Mill asserts an important caveat; that which he calls `the very simple principle'. He writes, `That
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Value of Individual Liberty

Indeed, Mill asserted that the cultivation of one's individuality should be the goal of human existence. He wrote On Liberty as an argument against repressive laws which inhibit voluntary association and suppress original ideas and ways of thinking, in a bid to protect the freedom of the individual from stifling social conventions, oppressive legal controls and censorship. What is the value of individual liberty that calls for it to be defended so fervently by Mill?

Individual Liberty and Truth

Firstly, Mill believes that individual liberty is instrumental in the attainment of truth. No one can claim an infallibility of knowledge or a definite truth. Falsehoods are often sprinkled with specks of truth; and truth may exists as half-truths held by different people, and it is only through controversy that the truth in the parts can be unified into a larger canvas of the ultimate truth. If one's actions were to be censored completely, society would lose those specks of truth amongst the falsehoods, which would be disadvantageous to society.

Furthermore, truth is very often not derived from the masses, but from the ideas of a select few. If these people are silenced by repressive laws or mass opinion, society will be deprived of a chance to find out
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