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On Liberty

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  34,849 ratings  ·  1,280 reviews
Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780140432077

Published in 1859, John Stuart Mill's On Liberty presented one of the most eloquent defenses of individual freedom in nineteenth-century social and political philosophy and is today perhaps the most widely-read liberal argument in support of the value of liberty. Mill's passionate advocacy of spontaneity, individuality, and dive
Paperback, 187 pages
Published July 29th 1985 by Penguin Classics (first published April 1859)
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Daniel That seems to contradict Mill's own utilitarianism. Namely, the silencing of one person's opinion would seem to amount to less harm than the silencing…moreThat seems to contradict Mill's own utilitarianism. Namely, the silencing of one person's opinion would seem to amount to less harm than the silencing of all of mankind minus one. Thus if the lack of justification is due to the principle of harm, then Mill seems to be equating two vastly unequal harms (the silencing of one vs. the silencing of all minus one).

Of course we can't say much about the hypothetical example, since Mill doesn't specify what the opinion and contrary opinion are. Generally speaking, people only try to silence opinions that matter. For opinions to matter, they must have at least the potential to change something. Thus the silencing of opinions usually equates to an attempt to stop some sort of change. (less)
Nat I think the essay is pretty plainly written. There are some of the complex sentence structures that you often see it stuff from the 19th century (lots…moreI think the essay is pretty plainly written. There are some of the complex sentence structures that you often see it stuff from the 19th century (lots of semicolons), but overall, it's not really difficult. There are a couple of odd words, and some parts were historical context is handy (one bit that confused me is the "Maine Law", which he mentions late in the book. Turns out it was the specific name of an early alcohol prohibition law). On the whole though, I think most people could read this pretty easily and understand it. (less)

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WARNING: Some of my political views are discussed in this VERY LONG review. I don't think there is anything offensive but with politics, you never know. Therefore, in case anything I say upsets anyone, I have included several very CUTE kitten photos by way of apology.

6.0 stars. On Liberty has secured a spot on my list of “All Time Favorite” books. I have gone through a pretty significant political re-examination over the last several years (maybe a lot of us have). A few years ago, if you were
The principle stated in this book sounds like a piece of evidence, such as a necessity. On all subjects that concern only, the individual is free. Society has no right to impose anything on him or his way of life (and God knows so even today, the community determines the fashions of living). His religious belief (while all religions, which speak the truth, seek to impose themselves by all means) nor his political opinion, what he buys or sells, or the people he associates beside. We can only lim ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
On Liberty, John Stuart Mill

On Liberty is a philosophical work by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill, originally intended as a short essay. The work, published in 1859, 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 (The highest good) of utilitarianism
Jun 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Anybody interested in free speech must surely be concerned with the situation of Bret Weinstein in the US. See for instance his hour interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fEAP...

One can only be deeply ashamed that non-conservative media has (I understand) all but ignored this story. Curious to have a statement of why this is so, I've written to NPR to find out why they have not reported one word on it. I am waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, John Stuart Mill's words to remind us of wha
Written in the 1850s, parts of this classic text are a little dated, but mostly it remains surprisingly relevant to the modern world. Probably it’s most famous for its second chapter, where Mill gives an impassioned defence of free speech. It’s noticeable that he sees social pressure as a more insidious threat to free speech than government legislation. How relevant is the quote below to the modern phenomenon of the social media mob?

“…there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevai
May 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
In praise of many-sidedness

This will be a short one! Reading it in 2021, I consider that this work could hardly be more to the point.

Here are some important quotes:

'Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest.'

'[...] the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physica
Patrick Peterson
Sep 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: political, clssics
I read this in college in the 70s. I remember it very positively, except for his waffling on liberty in certain areas, such as his thinking the state should provide education. That was a crack that statists drove a Mack truck through and further confused liberty lovers ever since. Too bad, since so much of the book is tightly logical, well written, and highly persuasive, especially on the issue of free speech.

2022-11-08 I later learned by reading Liberalism by Ludwig Mises (in the Appendix) that
Jan 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theory
Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained.

It would be pretentious to suggest I dedicated my reading to Ahmed Merabet, yet it would be untrue to exclaim otherwise. We've drowned in debate about liberty this last week. Somehow I regard that as most encouraging. I found Mill’s treatise riveting and incisive
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
MILL: the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way...
ME: Yes. Good
MILL: ...so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it...
ME: Great. Go on. keep em comin
MILL: ..therefore Neoliberalism
ME: No
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
A fundamental text in the Philosophical canon, but we still mustn't overlook the overt imperialism, naivety and intellectualism which seeps throughout these pages... ...more
Dec 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dense, but well written, and of course, it is a classic discourse on individual liberty and it's relationship to governmental power. ...more
Rosie Nguyễn
Jul 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The book is so great that whenever being asked about it, I'm just speechless, restless, wondering how to give the right word. It's not easy to read, and not easy to make a review. I keep delaying to note my thoughts about it, partly afraid I'm not good enough to comment on such a masterpiece. Yet I try, for my own record, for my later review on this review, and for the future reflection.

On Liberty is an excellent work on human rights and individual's relationship with society. What scores here i
Jul 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
This presented some wonderfully logical—and even fairly thorough, really, which was most impressive given the length of the essay—arguments in support of free speech, and on the importance of fighting against blind, unthinking conformity. A rather refreshing read in these times; preserving free speech has somehow become far less important than the temporary “gains” people are now pursuing by bullying and/or entirely muzzling their opponents, distorting history, “sanitizing” language, and handhol ...more
Susan's Reviews
Feb 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Studied this one in high school and for several university courses. I've been visiting old favourites on my bookshelf and I loved this treatise. So sensible, and yet it caused such a furor when it was published. I had also read his wife's famous treatise, On Marriage, which was also required reading for one of my courses. I've been a staunch feminist all of my life, so both of these authors "spoke my language!" ...more
A Man Called Ove
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
4.5/5 I was listening to an interview of Mr.Anupam Kher today on a 'Newslaundry' podcast. The interviewer was questioning him persistently on why he supports restrictions on freedom-of-expression ? I think Mr.Kher (I am a semi-fan of his), gave a number of arguments which were moral and not legal, niceties and not crimes, and failed to distinguish between the 2. This makes me wonder whether even those who suppose themselves to be liberals truly understand the basic reasons behind freedom-of-expr ...more
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-irish
It's amazing how it appears as if the older the work, the more relevant it is to today. Sure, this is anything but 'old' in comparison to Socrates and other writers, but this over 150 year old document still serves well today, definitely worth the few hours reading and I recommend it to everyone.

It is logically structured and written with ease of reading and understanding without the sacrifice of the quality of his argument.

As mentioned by Mill, he's not necessarily bringing anything new to the
Feb 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Not that I agree entirely with Mill's ideas about the structures and general functions of the individual and society, but this was a fascinating insight into the society I live in now, and how I regard my own place in society, if I have one. Most interesting were his points about freedom of expression, and his ability to move from our justifications for freedom of expression to freedom of tastes and pursuits without even flinching. Definitely worth a read, whatever your political persuasion. ...more
Jon Nakapalau
A foundational work addressing representative democracy that continues to shape ideology today. After the 2016 Presidential Election I would strongly suggest both parties hold 'JSM focus groups' to try to reconnect with the American people. ...more
Dec 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book is a classic. Giving due credit, I must acknowledge Prof. Keith Eubanks for inadvertently turning me on to Mill. I think Eubanks once quoted Mill, perhaps in his course syllabus, and I found the quote (something about expecting more from students, and how they will perform to these higher standards given the expecatation and opportunity) intriguing.

Anyway, if you're interested in learning where I get a lot of my thoughts on being an individual, read this book (or read essays/books by
Feb 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy, favorite

If after gay marriage legalisation comes book marriage legalisation I would have considered "On Liberty" one of my top suitors ahahahha. Written in 1859 by John Stuart Mill, this philosophical work examines state authority and individualism, and it was so well written that Thomas Hardy once said "All 1860 undergraduates memorised this book by heart." My political view changes so much

I think Mill's book, and especially his words on free speech, should be given to every student to read and reflect on. I couldn't agree more on the stifling effects of public pressure and blasphemy laws - every idea needs to be evaluated, dissected, and criticised, for it is only in this way that bad ones can be weeded out. People need to think for themselves, to explore, to contemplate, not be moulded into carbon copies of their teachers or relatives, conforming totaly to the majority,
Sean Gabb
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
During the libertarian rebirth of the past generation, it has become fashionable to sneer at the essay On Liberty. It is, I admit, a flawed work, and I will shortly try to explain why this is so. Before then, however, I will put a case for the defence - to show why, despite its flaws, the essay remains a valuable weapon in the libertarian arsenal, and will remain one when Rand and Nozick will chiefly be names found in histories of twentieth century thought.

Mill is at his very best in Chapter II,
Nina Kennett
Feb 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: anarcocapitalism
good pts, but i just cant even with the utilitarist arguments.
i owe nada to society, john.
Kyle van Oosterum
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
As the title of this essay suggests, we are dealing with the fundamental social force which when deficient, or when in excess, necessarily provokes chaos; Liberty. Meticulously undertaken, this essay presents the fiercest defence of individualism, captivating the reader with its endorsement of human excellence and self-government. Indeed, Mill's main antagonist is the democratisation of the masses, how we subdue ourselves to the tyranny of public opinion and passively accept mediocrity. Along th ...more
Sumirti Singaravelu
Never have Liberty found such a passionate, clear, beautiful and eloquent defence. There are few books which has the capacity to instill the faith that written words can change the world, if they are done well, and this is one such book. This should remain as a source of greatest inspiration for all those who want to defend truth and guard their true-selves at all the times. Here is a man who rebels with grace, kindness, and consideration. A book to read to realize how much of freedom we enjoy t ...more
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't think Mill's ideas are perfect in every single situation, but he makes a convincing argument. In general, I agree with his ideas on the harm principle, individuality, and government. I just think that they break down when taken to the extremes of human behavior that we have seen in various court cases.
I took off a star because holy cow. He uses so many words. Too many words. He could benefit from a copy editor. This would have been easier to follow and made more sense if he had stopped
Jul 04, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I read Stephen's masterful review, and decided I should read this. As an ebook...but it will take me a while. Each densely packed sentence is easily a page long.

I finally finished this, but I think I'll be rereading it. I wonder what life would be like if I tried to run my classroom on these principles?

Liberty is an issue that concerns us all. It's in everyone's mouth but, frequently, most people prefer to demand it rather than thinking about it in-depth.
Mill's "On Liberty", published in 1859, is a powerful essay that highlights the liberty of an individual and the importance of Liberty from a social point of view. The author constitutes his work on five chapters: Introduction; Of the liberty of thought and discussion; On individuality as one of the elements of well-being; On the limits to th
Apr 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy, 1800-s
An indisputably great work of philosophy. One, though, whose most valuable insights are too often ignored by today's left-liberals and one that is mentioned with astonishing frequency these days by people who seem to be actively opposed to much that Mill would have thought important--the set of "conservatives" who like to claim that they are "classical liberals," probably on the basis of a quick read through a Wikipedia page and some creepy Randian blogs.

Of course, Millian liberalism actually s
It seems fitting in my opinion, that I read this at the time I have. In that I read it both in a period wherein the acts of liberty are being increasingly disliked by the political despots of today, and also at the age I now am. Given that, if I was to be still in the school system, I'd be now reading this theoretically as apart of the 10th grade curriculum.

And yet, as for why it's recommended, revered, and installed into the curriculum's of most schools; mostly as it seems in the Commonwealth w
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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. ...more

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