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On Liberty and Other Essays

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  6,127 ratings  ·  57 reviews
Collected here in a single volume for the first time are John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, Utilitarianism, Considerations on Representative Government, and The Subjection of Women. These essays show Mill applying his liberal utilitarian philosophy to a range of issues that remain vital today--the nature of ethics, the scope and limits of individual liberty, the merits of and ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 592 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press (first published 1989)
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Feb 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Read On Liberty (1859) and Utilitarianism (1861), both for a second time. I am still impressed by the force of Mill's arguments and his ethical exhaltedness.

Personally, I think On Liberty should be obligatory reading for all students all over the world. Mill's plea for radical individual freedom, especially its use for society as a whole (which usually is neglected) is a healthy antidote in these times where different forms of totalitarianism are spreading across the globe. Tech giants, radical
Sep 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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
Mar 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, liberalism
Classic, advanced theory of liberalism. Still remarkably pragmatic. Is basic text to understand the 19th century.
After several months, I’ve finally slogged through these four essays by John Stuart Mill: On Liberty, Utilitarianism, Considerations on Representative Government and The Subjection of Women.

It was not the easiest read. Mills’ writing is complex and dry with extremely long sentences of nested thoughts. He rarely pulls up to summarize. This book put me to sleep many times and I rarely could read more than 20 pages in a go. Many naps later, it is finished. This all being said, there were a lot of
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 05, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
John Smith
Mill was a twat.
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
Doris Raines
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Should still be a 'primer' in High Schools world-wide
May 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Definitive text on utility and freedom
Jun 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In 2013, Noam Chomsky gave a lecture on the Common Good, and he quoted the epigraph at the beginning of On Liberty and Other Essays as a good place to start:
The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges, is the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity. -Wilhelm Von Humboldt.
What follows is Mills attempt to achieve a State worthy of the individuals who compose it. The alternative being a State which “
Maria Shury-Smith
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On Liberty is an odd mix between impressively modern progressive thought, in particular in relation to Mill's regard for women's Liberty, and forgivable oversimplifications. Most notable is the idea that we should allow people to do as they please regardless of our personal opinion unless their actions are affecting others negatively which doesn't count for the fact that people's disapproval of the actions of those around them often manifest into other negative symptoms. Therefore the chances of ...more
Mitchell Croom
Oct 07, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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 ...more
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
I am not a fan of reading essays. Though they give interesting views, they are not entertaining in the slightest. I was more intrigued by the last essay out of all of them which is called "The Subjection of Women." It seems as if he is a feminist of the Victorian era, which is very cool to be able to see. He has a lot of good ideas in there that are still very relevant today. Out of all of these essays, I would recommend this one out of all of them.

The one thing I didn't like about any of these
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 ...more
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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.
Dave Brown
Feb 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.”
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Isn't it weird to be rating such classic philosophy tomes out of five stars, as if any of us here have the wherewithal to consider ourselves above them?...Unless of course we subscribe to Mr Mill's meditations on individualism WOAH WENT THERE
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked 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.
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Agreeable and exemptuous contradictories of Liberty to man.
Sep 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes
Shelves: philosophy
An important read for any serious scholar of the American system of government.
Dec 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Required reading for Modern History at University of Alberta. Provides the basic for modern libertarianism and utilitarianism.
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The Man Behind The Liberty By. Marcus Jackman 1 1 Jun 28, 2018 10:44AM  

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John Stuart Mill, English 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.
“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.” 9 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.” 4 likes
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