In the very first paragraph of On Liberty (Chapter 1), Mill states: The subject of this Essay is not the so-called Liberty of the Will, so unfortunately opposed to the misnamed doctrine of Philosophical Necessity; but Civil, or Social Liberty: the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. A question seldom stated, and hardly ever discussed, in general terms, but which profoundly influences the practical controversies of the age by its latent presence, and is likely soon to make itself recognised as the vital question of the future. (OL, Chpt. 1, p. 2) Further down, Mill also states: The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, 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. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. . . . The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign. Given this passage (see full passage in reading) and others, as well as the class readings, what is the essay On Liberty about? What does Mill mean by “civil” and “social” liberty, and what are some of the issues that make these meanings of liberty important? Also, what is Mill trying to convey when he borrows from De Tocqueville referring to “tyranny of the majority” )? Does any of this resonate in our society today?
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