John Stuart Mills : A Progressive Thinker Of His Age

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John Stuart Mills was in his very essence a progressive thinker of his age. His works are typified by a unique and palpable struggle between the radical utilitarianism espoused by his father and chief educator, and a more idealistic yearning to explore the realm of individual freedom (Williamson, 2005). This struggle is epitomized in his essay ‘On Liberty’: a seminal work that shapes in many ways modern political and legal discourse on the rights of the individual within the state (Mill, [1859] 2005). For the purpose of this essay, focus will be paid to his segments firstly on the “harm principle”, as a minimal restriction on individual freedom, and to his arguments on the circumstance in which actions can be taken to fulfill individual liberty. It is the newly developed nexus between ‘negative’ individual liberty and ‘positive’ state involvement where Mills links classical liberalism to modern liberalism (Heywood, 2007). Mills motivating goal in this work is the libertarian acceptance of minimal restriction to individual freedom, which must be realized for self-development. The betterment of civilized society in this way relies on the expression of individual liberty without infringing on any other who enjoys equal liberty. The cases where such harm is committed, in which the state and law must inevitably intervene, is is not to reduce the importance of the individual liberty owed to rational actors, but rather affirms that aside from cases where harm
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