The Nature And Limits Of Power In John Mill's On Liberty

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Mill views liberty as a civil and social concept. The purpose of On Liberty is to investigate "the nature and limits of power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual." (Mill,1). Following a summary of the evolution of liberty in recent history, Mill discusses social tyranny, claiming that society 's "means of tyrannising are not restricted to the acts which it may do by the hands of its political functionaries." (Mill,8), meaning that society can tyrannize the people in ways other than political. He explains that social tyranny "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." (Mill,8), meaning that because these forms of oppression are not enforced by government penalty, they are harder to combat, and can therefore seep into both a life and soul. Due to this, Mill argues that "there needs protection also against the tyranny of prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose... its own ideas and practice as rules of conduct from those who dissent from them;"(Mill,8). Building on this claim, and being the object of Mill 's work, is his argument that "the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self protection." (Mill,12), meaning only in circumstances where one 's safety is in danger can individual
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