Locke vs Mill

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 17 November 2016

Locke vs Mill

Mankind has been fighting for Liberty and Freedom for as long as we can remember. Liberty and freedom has been a topic which has been debated for many decades. What does it mean to be free , and how far can we go to strive for freedom. These important questions have been answered and studied by two of the greatest English philosophers, John Locke and John Stuart Mill. Locke and Mill men will attempt to uncover the mysteries of Liberty and Freedom and unveil the importance of being free. This essay will look at John Locke’s principle works” Second Treatise of government” and John Stuart Mills. “ On Liberty and Other Essays”.

This essay will attempt to compare and contrast Lockes ideology on Liberty and Freedom to that of Mill. John Locke was one of the greatest philosopher in Europe in the end of 17th CE who wrote one of the most monumental books of the 18th CE , The Second treatise of Government. Much of Locke’s work is characterized by opposition to authoritarianism. This opposition is both on the level of the individual person and on the level of institutions such as government and church. For the individual, Locke wants each of us to use reason to search after truth rather than simply accept the opinion of authorities or be subject to superstition.

He wants us to proportion assent to propositions to the evidence for them. On the level of institutions it becomes important to distinguish the legitimate from the illegitimate functions of institutions and to make the corresponding distinction for the uses of force by these institutions. The positive side of Locke’s anti-authoritarianism is that he believes that using reason to try to grasp the truth, and determining the legitimate functions of institutions will optimize human flourishing for the individual and society both in respect to its material and spiritual welfare.

Locke’s fundamental argument is that people are equal and invested with natural rights in a state of nature in which they live free from outside rule. In The second Treatise of Government, man is govern by natural rights which makes him live in perfect freedom. John Locke states his belief that all men exist in ‘a state of perfect freedom. Man should be free and unrestricted in society. Locke believes that man exists in a state of nature and thus exists in a state of uncontrollable liberty which has only the law of nature to restrict it Locke emphasizes that to own profit and property means being necessary to be free.

We enter into the social contract to protect our liberty, life and property we should revolt against the government if they do the opposite of protecting Man is governed by natural right, and we as humans have no reasons to kill ourselves because we belong to God . Locke believes that the government holds the legislative power, society as individual units, and the people have the right to overthrow the legislator; Locke’s system of thought connected his idea of liberty with the social contract and private property. Locke differentiated between the natural liberty of man under government. In the state of nature there complete freedom.

Because of the human tendency toward social conflict, government was established. Liberty under law is established as the result of a free contract among individuals in society. Man cannot by contract or by his own consent, enslave himself to another. Freedom is not being subjugated to the arbitrary will of another. The end of law is to preserve and enlarge freedom. Man has freely entered into a contract for his own safety and peace, which legitimizes law and government. Locke adds to the idea of liberty the crucial concept of property, which included both physical property and life itself.

The concern of individuals must be to ensure property. Locke was arguing for middle-class landowners against the King and his arbitrary power. Locke thought that Parliament, as a body of interested and rational landowners, could be counted on to dispense justice and preserve peace in defence of property. Locke also believed that the Parliament could be counted on to preserve religious liberty. Locke’s arguments for liberty sound familiar today, but he believed that one must choose between liberty and equality. Locke’s argument that any government which did not admit to the principles of freedom ceased to be legitimate especially appealed.

To sum up, Locke’s model consists of a civil state, built upon the natural rights common to a people who need and welcome an executive power to protect their property and liberties; the government exists for the people’s benefit and can be replaced or overthrown if it ceases to function toward that primary end. Mill claims that his purpose in writing on liberty is to assert what he describes one very simple principle. The principle that ought to govern society and that principle has come to be known as the harm principle.

The individuals own good either physical or moral is not a sufficient warrant for societal intervention. The individual cannot rightfully be compelled to do or not to do because it will be better for him to do so because it is better for him to do so because it will make him happier. Mill came to an appreciation on human nature reading the great poets. Romantic poets emphasized the importance of emotions in human life, which contrasts the predominant psychology of the 18th Century which emphasized reason as the critical factor in any person’s life. Reason is what everybody used to understand the world around them.

This is what made Rousseau stand out as much. To Hobbes, Reason was the core of Enlightment thought. Reason lets us know the laws of nature that will lead to peace. It provided a way of thinking about life without being persuaded by the chaos of emotion. Romanticism can be seen as a reaction against this psychology. Reason is cold; logic is pure reason without emotion. Having read romantic poets, Mill develops a broader understanding of what utility is, influenced by factors beyond what is logical, attempting to account for the emotional side of human motivation.

He develops a philosophy that distinguishes between our interest in the progressive development of human personality and the mere satisfaction of our present desires. He talks about the interests we have as species in progress. Mills concern is with human potential. These things are evident in his conception of liberty. Mill expounded his own theory on Utilitarianism—“The creed which accepts the foundation of moral, utility or the greatest happiness of principle holds, That actions are right. ” By happiness he goes on to explain that he means pleasure and the absence of pain.

Unhappiness is the opposite. Unhappiness is pain and the withdrawal of pleasure. Not the same happiness as Aristotle. For Aristotle, pleasure is flourishing of human potential; the perfection of human capacity. Mill is beginning to sound a little more like the ancients. His argument vaguely echoes the argument of Plato in the republic. Mill is claiming that people who have experienced both higher and lower pleasures are the only ones qualified to judge between them. Plato wrote; the philosophers alone have experienced all kinds of pleasure which corresponds to Mills higher and lower pleasure.

Since the lower pleasures are animal pleasures. Animal pleasure arises through the satisfaction of physical desires. Mill claims that people who have experienced both pleasures prefer the higher pleasure. ” No intelligent human being would consent to be a fool; no instructed person would be an ignoramus. No person of feeling or conscious will be selfish and vase. Even though they should be persuaded that the fool is better satisfied with his lot then they are with theirs. ” He advances this as an empirical claim. So you are perfectly justified in asking it of yourself.

Bentham was a radical democrat in his time. All preferences are to be considered equal according to Bentham. The majority gets to decide what matters. Human dignity. Mill claims that all human beings posses a sense of dignity and so long as we value our dignity we cannot desire that which conflicts with it. What he means by dignity, is not really a concern about ones reputation, rather it is a concern with ones sense of self. Dignity is the value one has for ones self, that allows a person to feel pride and satisfaction with the way they conduct themselves .

According to Mill few people actually devote themselves to a higher pleasures Everyone is born with a sense of their own worth; a sense of dignity, but this sense of dignity is easily crushed but societal influences. It is clear that Mill thinks we ought to aspire to be the sort of person who posses a noble character. Mills utilitarianism cosies up to classical notion to the importance of character. For example both Plato and Aristotle are concerned with character, with the kinds of people we are or will become. Developing a noble character.

For mill aspiring to your lowest appetite is not a life at all. We should all strive for our highest appetites. That you would be happier fulfilling your highest pleasures. Lockean nature is timeless, ahistorical no particular location. There is a natural inequality of persons and everyone is free to conduct themselves as they see fit. The state of nature is always the same. The activities always remain the same. Locke goes out of his way to tell us that the state of nature is not a state of war. The logic of nature leads to the state of war to the state of government.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 17 November 2016

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