Sunday, 18 September 2016

Book Notes: "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill

On LibertyOn Liberty by John Stuart Mill

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Revisiting On Liberty was an interesting exercise. It is little wonder that it was, and, according to the introduction, is ever more so, a gospel for living as an individual. What was most challenging was to find that so much of my education has led me to read Mill as if it were gospel, agreeing at every turn with almost everything. Its simplicity may be a reason for this, but it is also evident that a liberal education cannot be anything less than based on Mill's philosophy. Ideas affecting liberty, such as the after-hours lock-out laws in Sydney, are covered by Mill. Yet contemporary ideas of libertarianism seem to deny Mill's authority on the matter. But finding my own philosophy so closely aligned with Mill's is something worthy of further challenge and reflection. That this "little book" has since become a program for governments throughout the Anglo world appears to have reached its peak, with issues such as national security throwing into conflict the ideas of Hobbes and Mill on the nature of the "good society". Yet this gospel of the liberal tradition, in my mind, at least, wins again and again when read from the lofty heights of experience which I could neither conjure nor comprehend all those years ago. Mill really is the "godfather" of the liberal tradition and, like any gospel, rewards one with each subsequent reading.



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