Erik Graff's Reviews > On Liberty

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
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's review
Sep 12, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: philosophy
Recommended to Erik by: Timothy Little
Recommended for: everyone
Read in April, 1969 , read count: 1

This book was read for, or at least during, Tim Little's course in European History at Maine Township High School South. Being one of the first books we'd ever read in political philosophy, it was doubtlessly very influential. Later, in graduate school, I had occasion to read the author's Utilitarianism as well.

Tim Little himself was a very influential figure at our school. He'd been around a while, so many of my older friends, themselves influential, had had him for Advanced Placement history. He was, we all imagined, radical, but he hid the fact. The department chairperson, Otto Kohler, was conservative. Open radicals, even liberal Democrats, were suspect. And it wasn't just the department: the schools, the whole community of Park Ridge, Illinois was at that time reactionary to the core. Progressive teachers, often our favorites, didn't last beyond their first contract.

Tim indicated his views, we imagined, with his assignments and with his facial expressions. Most characteristic was what appeared to be a barely suppressed smirk, only one side of his compressed lips raised. For years I attempted to make that expression a habit.

Mill, while associated with the UK's Liberal Democrats (a fusion of the old Social Democrats and the Liberal Party), is, when read by a young person, a radical figure, questioning as he does all legal interference with the socially innocuous behavior and beliefs of individuals. Today he'd be called a libertarian in this regard, though possibly he'd reject what passes for it in the Libertarian Party of the USA given their economic fancies.

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