The Harm Principle of John Stuart Mill

2017 Words Apr 29th, 2012 9 Pages
The Harm Principle of John Stuart Mill

For John Stuart Mill, he was a strong believer in utilitarianism. As he says in his essay, “...Liberty consists in doing what one desires.” (393). He believed that whatever may make somebody happy is what they should be allowed to do, as long as it did not infringe on anybody else's rights in the process of practicing. This is the harm principle. Mill came up with a principle that states that a person should be lawfully allowed to do literally anything that they see fit, as long as it does not affect anybody else negatively. Therefore, Mill argues against law paternalism, trying to protect individual rights to make that individual happywithout the government's interference. The main topic of
…show more content…
On the flip side, those who are told what to do for their whole lives are never able to learn to make those decisions, and are in turn doomed to not be able to make moral, logical life decisions if faced with an unknown situation needing a moral solution. In the end, Mill is just saying that when people have the freedom to think for themselves, they will generally make better decisions than when ordered around by rules and regulations. Like any rule, there are exceptions to Mill's Harm Principle. The first is children. They lack the mental ability to make rational decisions and are unable to weigh long-term vs short-term consequences of the decisions they do make. There are also severely mentally handicapped people who cannot make rational decisions on their own for the same reason of children. In these two situations, a rationally thinking person or entity is needed to step in on their behalf, for they do not have the mental capacity to comprehend the entire situation they could be entering. Another exception to this rule are those who do not understand the consequences of their actions due to sheer ignorance, not because they do not possess the mental capacity. An example that Mill gave was if a person is starting to walk onto a bridge that is very unsafe, and this that person is unaware of the danger, and it is certain that he does not want to be put in a dangerous situation, then it would be okay for the police or
Open Document