On Liberty is a philosophical work by English philosopher John Stuart Mill, originally intended as a short essay. The work applies Mill's ethical system of utilitarianism to society and the state. Mill attempts to establish standards for the relationship between authority and liberty. He emphasizes the importance of individuality which he conceived as a prerequisite to the higher pleasures—the summum bonum of Utilitarianism. Furthermore, Mill criticised the errors of past attempts to defend individuality where, for example, democratic ideals resulted in the "tyranny of the majority". Among the standards established in this work are Mill's three basic liberties of individuals, his three legitimate objections to government intervention, and his two maxims regarding the relationship of the individual to society "which together form the entire doctrine of [Mill's] Essay." On Liberty was a greatly influential and well received work though it did not go without criticism. Some attacked it for its apparent discontinuity with Utilitarianism, while others criticised its vagueness. The ideas presented in On Liberty have remained the basis of much liberal political thought. It has remained in print continuously since its initial publication. To this day, a copy of On Liberty is passed to the president of the British Liberal Democrats as a symbol of office. A copy of the same book is also presented to and then held by the resident of the Liberal Party as a symbol of office.
Contents include a selected bibliography and an editor's Introduction broken into two sections. The first section provides a brief sketch of the historical, social, and biographical context in which Mill wrote and the second traces the central line of argument in the text to aid in the comprehension of the essay's structure, method, and major theses.
This is a modern language version of the classic 1859 essay. Essentially, it translates the work into current English with the aim of improving its readability and understandability. The translation is substantive but retains literalness and original word order and grammar as far as possible. Mill's primary concern in On Liberty is with the liberty of the individual. He is fully aware that personal freedom is only a part of freedom. People live in societies and their personal liberty depends on (and contributes to) economic and political institutional (etc.) freedom. In the course of the essay, Mill touches on many wider socio-cultural aspects of liberty. He does not examine them very systematically or in much depth. However, he is not setting out to write a comprehensive treatise on human liberty. Nor does On Liberty just attack state interference with freedom. Mill sets down as a basic principle that neither the state nor society has any business restricting the liberty of people except to prevent injury to others. CONTENTS: EDITORIAL FOREWORD 1: INTRODUCTORY 2: LIBERTY OF THOUGHT & DISCUSSION 3: INDIVIDUALITY: ONE OF THE ELEMENTS OF WELL-BEING 4: THE LIMITS TO THE AUTHORITY OF SOCIETY OVER THE INDIVIDUAL 5: APPLICATIONS
On Liberty presents John Stuart Mill's theory of utilitarianism, which posits that all conduct should be directed toward the achievement of happiness. The individual should be able to govern himself in this pursuit. One of the great works of 19th century philosophy, On Liberty remains relevant, highly-readable and fascinating.
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"Eggleston has produced easily the best edition of Utilitarianism available. By conveniently including so many of the relevant passages from supplementary works, all organized for ease of reference, scholars and students alike will now have at their fingertips the materials needed to make sense of Mill's classic text. This is important not just for an accurate understanding of Mill's own moral and political philosophy, but for a proper appreciation of utilitarianism as a leading moral tradition." —Piers Norris Turner, Associate Professor of Philosophy, The Ohio State University
This expanded edition of John Stuart Mill’s Utilitarianism includes the text of his 1868 speech to the British House of Commons defending the use of capital punishment in cases of aggravated murder. The speech is significant both because its topic remains timely and because its arguments illustrate the applicability of the principle of utility to questions of large-scale social policy.
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