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On Liberty

On Liberty (1859) was John Stuart Mill's influential justification of individual freedom. In this book, Mill set out to establish a ‘simple principle’—that the only legitimate reason for interfering with someone's action was to protect someone else; the good of the agent himself/herself was not sufficient warrant. Mill based his defence of liberty on utilitarian grounds, not on a natural right to freedom; arguing that on balance people were happier when left to choose their life-styles for themselves. He also believed that social well-being and scientific progress depended on the greatest possible freedom of expression and publication. His attack was directed not only at governmental paternalism but also at social conformity.

Tim S. Gray

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