Mill On Liberty

Decent Essays

Positive Liberty in Mill’s On Liberty

On his well-known work, On Liberty, John Stuart Mill starts by clarifying that the subject of his essay is Civil or Social liberty: “the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual,” (Mill, 5). Though some would see this as evidence for Mill’s grasp of liberty as something that is primarily concerned by the absence of constraints, that is negative liberty, Mill also engages in arguments and discussions that point towards an opposing view of liberty. Mill’s political theory as found in his work On Liberty marks the transition from a classical take of liberty as a negative concept to a modern liberalism understanding of liberty as a concept requiring underlying preconditions of empowerment for its full and complete actualization. This essay will demonstrate how Mill’s discussion of utility, social tyranny, and customs point to the distinctiveness of his work as a marker of a transition towards a modern liberalism understanding of liberty; these discussions delineate the required underlying preconditions of empowerment that will lead an individual to self-actualize and possess true liberty. It is important to note that Mill’s work marks a transition and not a complete shift from classical liberalism to modern liberalism. The shortcomings of his argument will be addressed. It is important to first clarify and expand on what is meant by negative liberty as understood by classical

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