Reading Challenge. Week 5: On Liberty Chapter 1 & 2 by John Stuart Mill

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2021·06·10

Reading Challenge. Week 5: On Liberty Chapter 1 & 2 by John Stuart Mill

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In his seminal work ‘On Liberty’, English philosopher John Stuart Mill, explores the nature and limits of the power that society can legitimately exercise over the individual. Mill maintains that freedom of expression and thought are fundamental to individual liberty and sovereignty and, therefore, to the wellbeing of society. He believes these freedoms offer safeguards against all forms of tyranny — from tyranny of authoritarian despots to the tyranny of the majority. 

If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.

Published in 1859, the piece has long been a defining part of law, education and culture in many liberal democratic societies. Today, On Liberty is not only relevant but is perhaps more so than ever in light of the many challenges we face. While only 15 or 20 years ago certain elements of Mill’s thought may have seemed obvious, even anodyne, its arguments now — amidst heated disagreements re. individual freedom versus societal good, including perhaps especially those about media and social media censorship freedom of expression — reveal just how radical the work is. 

Chapter 1 & 2: https://www.earlymoderntexts.com/assets/pdfs/mill1859_1.pdf

Additional resources:

Written Summary: https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/onliberty/summary/  

Video Summary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4Pt7TF1w2c  

Podcast: https://philosophybites.com/2008/04/richard-reeves.htm

Join the crucial discussion, challenge your friends with the #WEDFReadingChallenge and get the chance to win a free WEDF Membership:

(1) Complete this week’s reading!

(2) Share your participation on social media with a post saying:

I'm joining the #WEDFReadingChallenge. This week we're reading 'On Liberty' by John Stuart Mill + your thoughts on #FreedomofExpression!

(3) Tag & challenge a friend to take part!