The Harm (aka Liberty) Principle ‘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 physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.’
What about self-regarding actions?
‘Harm’ ‘Harm’ means harm to our interests. The interests that count here are those that ought to be considered to be rights, those interests ‘which society ought to defend me in the possession of’. Which interests should be rights is decided by utility, ‘but it must be utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of a man as a progressive being. These permanent, progressive interests include freedom, the pursuit of truth, and the development of individual character.
‘Pursuing our own good in our own way’
Negative freedom No one else may define our good (v. Plato) Freedom is an individual good (v. Rousseau) Mill thought external obstacles to freedom are the main concern of the state.
Positive freedom Liberty must enable activity in order to be worthwhile; the final end is a better life.
Can utility defend liberty? Connect freedom and individuality: –‘the only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way’. Connect individuality and utility: –‘the free development of individuality is one of the leading essentials of well- being’. So freedom is central to utility.
Utility and liberty Individual utility: –autonomy is a key component of happiness. Social utility: the ‘experiments of living’ individuals conduct are –a means of proving the worth of different modes of living; and –enable the genius of some people to introduce new good ideas in society.
Is liberty so central to utility? But must we have as much autonomy as the Harm Principle gives us? Not all societies that limited freedom were stagnant. Does liberty ensure utility through the growth of rationality and knowledge of what is truly good? Frederick the Great of Prussia
Social tyranny Tyranny is no longer the rulers dominating the people, because the people rule. But the people who rule, even in a democracy, are not the people who are ruled: there is a majority and minority. The new danger is tyranny of the majority.
Social tyranny Tyranny of the majority can lead to illiberal laws, e.g. against certain religions. But it can also be social tyranny, through socially-endorsed preferences and ways of living, disapproval and offence: –It leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating much more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself.