John Stuart Mill: Individual Freedoms As A Basis For Society

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John Stuart Mill: Individual freedoms as a basis for society

Individual freedoms as the basis of nineteenth -century society 

In today’s world it would become unthinkable to speak of an absolutely liberalist society, and in the same way of an absolutely egalitarian, since we have the need to live in balance between these two points. This balance that is discussed is noted for example in the way in which in certain European countries people respect that everyone has equal wages, sexual and gender equality, racial equality, among other types. But at the same time also in them there is great freedom if we speak in the field of expression, of opinion, among others, as long as the freedom of our peers is respected, a situation that in these countries is not strange, since these are more societiesdeveloped in several aspects. However, in many other countries in the world, movements to achieve equality in the vast majorsexes, ethnicities, tastes, etc. This at the time of Mill, the England of the nineteenth century, was something totally different, since, although they could think of doing things like that, people did not have the motivation or the desire to go and fight for what they considered fair, in addition, in addition, in additionthat those who used to have these thoughts were considered revolutionaries for the rest of the people.

John s. Mill speaks to us in his essay "about freedom" of political issues, of different freedoms, individuality, despotism, will, among others. Being individuality and freedom two of the main issues that it touches, since, they are largely connected to each other.

First, we will talk about Mill’s vision about representative democracy, which considers a better form of government than the so -called "despotism". While this finds advantages to despotism depending on the way we see it (as if we speak for example of benevolent despotism) the disadvantages it sees are greater are. The main of these tells us that despotism “… does not produce its worst effects both individuality exists under it;And everything that annihilates individuality is despotism … ". From this extract it can be inferred that Mill speaks as an ideal government of representative democracy, since it raises as the thesis of its text "on freedom" individuality. 

The representative democracy, tells us about a society in which the "will of the most numerous portion" is followed, since the rulers (representatives) of the people, carry out the wishes of the majority. This resembles the idea that Tocqueville poses of the "tyranny of the majority". In the approach of this second author, we are told about a society in which there is equality, so that freedom is limited, since it stated that the greater equality the freedom is less. But the freedom raised by this is rather that in which people do things by their own society, or rather political ends, that is, they are governed by social norms, since, if it is not in this way,Freedom would become debauchery. Unlike Tocqueville, for John S. Mill, if it is possible that in representative democracy there is a freedom linked to the individuality of each person and every aspect of this same.

Individuality is closely related to what Mill poses about freedom, since freedom for him is divided into two areas, social and private. The first tells us about behavior with our peers, it tells us that in this area freedom is limited because it is governed by the norms and laws that exist in society. Second, we have the private, which speaks of what we do and affects us only to ourselves, not third parties, since it would affect these would become part of the social sphere. These two "faces" of freedom refer exactly what Mill tells us is called individuality, since in the text we are mainly told about "individual freedoms’, freedoms that are subject to which subjects are impact, it issay, if they affect third parties or only have an impact on oneself. In the following fragment the author affirms this expressing that in his book there are two main maxims about the thesis of this and individuality: “… the individual should not accounts to society for their actions, as long as they do not refer to interestsof any person, if not to himself … of the acts harmful to the interests of others, the individual is responsible, which can be subject to legal or social punishment … ‘

Now, as has been raised so far, individuality has influence in much of the concepts covered by the author in the “on freedom” essay, of which the concept of will is also part of, since the will is directlyrelated to what we previously mentioned when talking about "the will of the most numerous portion". For the author the will refers to that

As proposed by Tocqueville, the concept of individuality would be a consequence of equality. Since the individuality of a person would be subject to what society would like, that is, its private individuality would develop based on their public individuality. Because of this we can appreciate a great contrast between certain ideas of both authors, despite being contemporaries. This author told us that: “As every man will be equally weak, he will feel identical need of his peers, and knowing that he will not be able to achieve his support but on the condition of lending his help, he will easily discover that for him the private interest coincides with thepublic interest."

Another concept that touches million in his book is that of the truth, the author tells us that the truth is not always completePerson with a totally irrational thought, which will make us reinforce our truth. In other words. This is explained when Mill speaks of Newton, saying that:

If the discussion of Newtonian philosophy had not been allowed, at this time there would be no humanity as sure of its truth as it is. Beliefs have no more safeguarding to maintain than a permanent invitation to everyone to prove their lack of foundation. If the invitation is not accepted or if, accepted, fails in its attempt, we can still be far from certainty. We can expect that, if there is a better truth, it will be found when the human mind is able to receive it, and, meanwhile, we can be sure to have approached the truth as possible in our own time.

The aforementioned fragment affirms what has been said before, but it also tells us that, until we are not ready, we will only get to this truth that it is better than ours but we cannot take it as our own.

Finally, we can conclude from the thought of John Stuart Mill is that he believed reliably in a society in which each individual had their freedom, individuality and exercised their will, but without crossing the limits of the rest, that is, to exercise it while the consequences of thisjust have an impact on oneself. Also being a Democrat, he spoke of a representative democracy as the best form of government, leaving the so -called despotism, since this was not guided by the will of the majority, rather it was the will of authority. In addition, despotism could not work as long as individuality (one of the maxims of Mill’s book) had any existence under him. The government despot does not allow the truth to be questioned, since the truth of the one who governs must be the absolute truth, although for the vast majorreally.


  1. Mill, (2018). About freedom. (Special edition made for “Core UAI Program” of the Adolfo Ibáñez University.) Santiago: Liberalia Ediciones Ltda.
  2. Tocqueville, (NF). Democracy in America. (2nd ed.) NF: Trotta.

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