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On Liberty: And Other Essays

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  3,752 ratings  ·  39 reviews
This influential work from British philosopher and politician John Stuart Mill, complemented by his essays on logic, politics and economy, was a radical assertion when it was first published in 1859. A core text in the development of liberalism in England and the U.S., many of Mill's famous political ideas - "The Harm Principle," "Tyranny of the Majority," and the componen ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published June 2nd 2009 by Kaplan Publishing (first published 1989)
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Steve Sckenda
Mar 25, 2013 Steve Sckenda rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Political Philosophers
Recommended to Steve by: Great Books of Western World
John Stuart Mill was ahead of his time. In 1859, he published “On Liberty,” which is a declaration for freedom, tolerance, and individuality. It is a short and very accessible work that contains the intellectual underpinning of modern liberal democracies. Although a philosopher, Mill is highly readable, especially when one starts at the beginning. Mills articulated ideas that I have long cherished, and he writes with conviction and polish.

I have selected some of my favorite quotations that illu
How we all know and love our liberal freedoms - freedom of speech (if you have the money to speak!), freedom of association (that is, if your union isn't in a right-to-work state, or your political group isn't being monitored and busted by COINTELPRO), and, the libertarian favorite, freedom to do bodily harm to oneself (i.e. freedom to buy an unhealthy lifestyle on the exhilaratingly free market). In theory, these are the freedoms Mill is particularly concerned with defending in his famous essay ...more
Richard Newton
This is a nice edition bringing together 4 of Mill's essays into one volume.

If you are not familiar with Mill's writing the underlying ideas are powerful even if there are flaws in some of the arguments. His liberalism was ahead of its time, and its easy to forget how radical some of his views were. The writing style is typical of its era - long winded, long sentences and long paragraphs. Focus on what he is saying rather than how he is saying it, and you will get most out of it. If Mill was wri
Mitchell Croom
A classic that's still applicable today. In this work, Mill spells out his harm principle and the philosophy that informs it, and despite the principle's near-universal fame, it is of benefit for any reader to examine the original argument and see for themselves what Mill intended. But the best part of this work is not On Liberty, but On the Subjection of Women (which is appended in this volume). On the Subjection gives the reader insight into the feminist movement in its earliest days, and whil ...more
Lauren Sheil

On Liberty – John Stuart Mill

I’m trying something new in this space. As part of my ongoing study of Meekonomics I read a lot of books on economics, politics, philosophy and religion. I’ve been tweeting out a “quote of the day” from some of my reading for about 2 years now but I’ve decided that those tweets were getting rather disjointed and many of my followers were just getting sound bites that didn’t make much sense unless you’ve been following my thought process all alon
Matthew Walker
The classic text from Mills, in an edition which also includes, Utilitarianism, Considerations on Representative Government, The Subjection of Women. Having all four together allows us to see the consistency of his thought and they still stand the test of time.
I only read "On Liberty" so technically I didn't read this entire book. However, I loved Mill's theories on how individualism is supposed to be more valued in society and what a crucial role it plays in the success of the State as a whole.
Daniel Maldonado
This book is not an easy read because of it's complex content, nineteenth-century learned readers had immense economies for words and twenty-first-century readers are quite remedial in comparison. Yet if you get passed the heavy language, there are some dynamically interesting ideals being discussed here, some progressively liberal and others backwardly imperialistic. Mill is ahead of his time for his advocacy for women's rights, the dedication is to his wife Harriet, a brilliant woman, whom sch ...more
The only canonical author who has actually shaped my political philosophy. Great essays. Also, the man knows is eminently quotable.

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept

More compulsively readable than initially thought.
Gets a lot right about Chinese education surprising for that time period, with so little contact and information dissemination not as advanced as it is nowadays.
Follows with a lot of personal beliefs, about opening up large discussion for a diversity of opinion, allowing them to fight it out and defend, to protect minority rights, and to let individuals have their liberty if it doesn't cause anyone else in society harm.
I've read a little Mill before and I can't say I'm a utilitarian by any means. Although Mill tries to justify the concepts of inherent rights and argues against hurting others for the common good, I don't like to think my happiness should be either limited by or added to for the sake of the common good. Pretty dense writing style to boot. Still, another seminal work that's definitely worth your while.
Unlike many philosophers I've read lately, for example Kant, Mill was surprisingly light reading. His writing is enjoyable, and even though one might not agree with everything he says, his argumentation is well structured and thorough. A real pleasure to read, because you understand right away what he means, and don't have to spend so much time analyzing difficult metaphors and language.
Dave Brown
Well, it's a bit dry for sure, it was after all published in 1859 as one piece, so it can be a bit like gnawing on drywall, but this is a seminal text in these troubling days. I believe liberty to be at risk, despite Obama's triumph last November. If nothing else, it will give you keen insight on how to deal with situations you do not agree with.
Dustin Hanvey
Rereading "On Liberty" and reading "Utilitarianism" reminded me why Mill is one of my favorite political philosophers. Many of his ideas have become almost axiomatic, especially the liberty of the individual and his definitions of justice. Dickens treated him somewhat harshly in "Hard Times", maybe even unfairly. Definitely worth a read.
An excellent collection of Mill's essays on relations of government to people and vice versa. It loses one star for the unfortunately naive line: "The time, it is to be hoped, is gone by, when any defense would be necessary of the ‘liberty of the press’ as one of the securities against corrupt or tyrannical government.”
This was an awesome book. Although some of his theories have some problems it is amazing to read the original principals of liberalism. When you think that already in the 19th century J.S.Mill was already advocating on the rights of women, you can't help but to admire him.
He was a man ahead of his time.
I've given this four stars only because a lot of Mill's ideas were solid and he was ahead of his time in regards to a lot of issues such as women's rights. But ultimately he's working with two inconsistent principles that can't co-exist, and his philosophy falls apart because of it.
Only read On Liberty. Helpful for tracing definitions of childhood, education, and machines. Highly evocative passages regarding the imagination of individual bodies and the social body as mechanical. Re-read sections again before exams.
I read this for my philosophy class and instantly agreed with Mill's position. He makes arguments that are logical that it was undeniable. His ideas broke the stream of thought that was so common.
Mark Robertson
Moderately strong defense of liberty for expression. Mill is masterful in arguing that Utilitarian thought (or his brand thereof) condones staunch defense of personal liberties.
Liam Kofi
The moment immediately after reading "On Liberty" is the nearest that I ever came to being a liberal. This should be required reading in secondary schools
While I disagree with Mills' views of privat property, I was deeply influenced by the liberal utilitarian philosophy espoused in this work.
Klassieke doorgedreven theorie van het liberalisme. Toch nog opvallend pragmatisch. Is basistekst van de 19de eeuw.
The never recorded Mill quote after 12 shots of rye whiskey:

"Get that damn government away from my genius."
A necessary read for anyone hoping to understand the basis of where we are in the development of mankind.
On Liberty [x]
Utilitarianism []
Considerations on Representative Government []
The Subjection of Women []
Mill presents his influential definition of the scope and limits of personal political freedom.
Jun 11, 2007 Bryan marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I read a significant chunk of this for my intro to law class. I enjoyed it and should read rest.
Ike Sharpless
"He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that." Indeed.
I particularly liked the section, "Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion"
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  • The Basic Political Writings
  • Political Writings (Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • Elements of the Philosophy of Right
  • The Open Society and Its Enemies, Volume Two: Hegel and Marx
  • The Theory of Moral Sentiments
  • The Discourses
  • The Spirit of the Laws (Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought)
  • Two Treatises of Government
  • Reflections on the Revolution in France
  • Liberty: Incorporating Four Essays on Liberty
  • On Law, Morality, and Politics
  • Political Liberalism
  • Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality
  • Selected Essays
  • On Revolution
  • The Man Versus the State
  • Utilitarianism: For and Against
John Stuart Mill, British philosopher, political economist, civil servant and Member of Parliament, was an influential liberal thinker of the 19th century. He was an exponent of utilitarianism, an ethical theory developed by Jeremy Bentham, although his conception of it was very different from Bentham's.
More about John Stuart Mill...
On Liberty Utilitarianism The Subjection of Women On Liberty and Utilitarianism Autobiography

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“Protection, therefore, against tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.” 5 likes
“But reflecting persons perceived that when society is itself the tyrant—society collectively, over the separate individuals who compose it—its means of tyrannizing are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practises a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.” 3 likes
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