Ramble. Focus. Ramble.

On Liberty: Chapter 1

The idea is to read through On Liberty slowly and understand as much of it as possible. It is amazing how mill writes. It must have been a popular way to write like this in Britain in the 1800s. I have a very hard time deciphering all that he has to say particularly because the guy just puts it all into one sentence. Mill has excellent ideas and I see every point in On Liberty being as popular as it is but only if it was meant for a Pakistani Philosophy student of the 2000s it would have been less complicated. And to be honest, I see no point in making things too fancy when there is a simpler way to say it. Also, I think the more clear the language is, the better a philosopher conveys his ideas. However, many philosopher’s have written as if they didn’t want to be read. For instance, Nietzsche made sure nobody got his point of view at all. Should so many questions arise about the theory a philosopher believed in? Yes because the Philosopher is only a man and he may have shifted to this and that, off and on. But to complicate oneself in writing makes no sense at all.

I want to be read more than J.S. Mill and so I am going to write simpler. This statement is pretty false and I am probably never going to be read as much as him but nothing takes away from me the right to believe in this false statement.

Let’s take a look at the ideas that Mill puts forward in his amazing book, On Liberty. This is excellent Political Philosophy.

1. “History has been a struggle between authority and liberty.” That sounds fairly true and I don’t see why no one would want to agree to this.

2. How to control authority: Firstly, citizens should have a type of immunity, rights, under a particular government and the it is the duty of the government to ensure those rights. Failure in doing so will make a rebellion justified. Secondly, constitutional checks should maintain that the government body takes along the interests of the people and people would be consulted off and on to make important decisions about the state. So people have an important role in approving and disapproving strategies.

3. So, when man was in a constant state of war he preferred the rule by a master but now the popular style is Democracy.

4. Yes, democracy or self-rule are gaining immense popularity but there are major problems linked to this type of rule. Though democrats believe people’s rule is the best form of government because it provides a great deal of control over the authorities and the majority gets to rule but J.S. Mill has problems with this kind of government.

His objection is that the people of the nation are not all the same. Some are more useful than others and some more active than others similarly. The active group will definitely move towards the government sector when there is going to be self-rule. This will make a minority of active people ruling a majority of inactive people. The problem with this is that tyrannical monarchy is only as bad as a bad democracy. Rather social tyranny is worse than ever, according to J.S. Mill because this enslaves the soul. You fashion your thinking to match it to the popular thinking; you give up individuality. Conscious or unconscious, this is enslavement.

5. It is important to limit the interference of the collective opinion with the individual independence. (p. 14)

6. Protection from the tyranny of a majority is much more difficult. You can’t just bring a French Revolution by decapitating the Monarchs. It is much more complicated than that.

7. The prevailing opinion is soon given the name of “custom” and going against customs can bring a lot of resistance. The custom becomes the law of conduct, it is really hard to protect your individual opinion if it does not match the custom because it would go against the law of conduct and it will be removed. There is no safeguard for your opinion even if it is right.

8. Only purpose for which power can be exercised against a person’s will is to prevent harm to others_ For his own good is not a sufficient warrant.

9. Mill believes customs are simply popular opinions. They don’t have any rational grounds and they come about because of people trying to please each other.

10. Mill says there is no religious tolerance anywhere at all. There is, however, religious indifference in many parts of the world. It can be confused with religious tolerance but the words are different.

11. The world keeps stretching unduly the power of society over an individual, in the name of democracy_through the force of opinion or through legislation.

The Americans have traveled the road of democracy more than any other country has ever done, or so they claim. Even the best democracy, US, is facing serious problems, I am referring to the popular protest movement called the ‘Occupy Movement.’ We are the 99% is the slogan of that majority that is being ruled by a minority of rich people even in a democratic state. This is what Mill is addressing in his book. Now that self-rule has been declared the best sort of government we need to evaluate if it really is so. If the 99 percent are not for this government, is this the democracy that we need to have?

The more important questions are ones that concern the whole world of ideas and a philosopher would want to see through these ideas and find the ones that represent individual expression and discard the ones that have sprung only through customs. Why do we believe in democracy being the best kind of government? There could be rational arguments for and against the nature but isn’t democracy just a popular opinion?

Isn’t Imran Khan just a popular opinion? If so, Mill would say that the tyranny this popular opinion will bring is going to be worse than Hitler’s. But is this argument justified? I think Mill will speak of it further in this book. Let’s discover more of his ideas in the coming Chapters because I am sure he is building up a mighty strong argument, the foundations of which have been fairly strong.

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One comment on “On Liberty: Chapter 1

  1. Pingback: Ramble Focus Ramble – On Liberty: Chapter 2

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2012 by in Book Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , .
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