Mill’s On Liberty

Chapter I: Intro.
i. Need of protection against the magistrate and the non-legal tyranny of the majority.
NOTE: the threat of mass-society to individual liberty
ii. Essay thesis:
The sole permissible end for individual or collective interference with individual liberty of action is the avoidance of harm to others (other regarding actions). In  matters concerning only oneself, one’s right is absolute (self-regarding actions).  Over oneself, one’s body and mind, the individual is sovereign.  Hence, the following sacrosanct: absolute liberty of conscience, tastes, opinion & speech; limited liberty of pursuits and association (no harm to others clause).
iii. Method of argument: utilitarian argument (that is, PU) applied to the “permanent interests of man as a progressive being.”

Chapter II: Freedom of thought and discussion.

1. These freedoms necessary for the well-being of humankind because:

Chapter III: Of individuality as one of the elements of well-being.
Freedom of action is not as unrestricted as freedom of opinion because it is more likely than mere speech to harm others.  However, since it's a manifestation of individuality, it should be protected because individuality is important both to individuals and to society

1. Individuality important to well-being of individual because

2. Individuality important to well-being of society because: Chapter IV: of the limits to the authority of society over the individual.
Question: What are the limits to the sovereignity of individual over himself?
Answer: Society may interfere with the part of the individual’s life chiefly interesting society (other regarding actions); the individual is sovereign in that part chiefly interesting the individual (self-regarding actions).  Hence: Problems:
1. The distinction between self regarding and other regarding actions is unclear and/or untenable
Possible answers: 2. Paternalism: even if self-regarding actions exist, cannot we maximize happiness through paternalism?
Mill's argument against paternalism: 3. Enforcement of morals (Lord Devlin)
Argument for the enforcement of morality and against the existence of a private sphere of autonomy
  1. Society has a right to pass judgment in matters of morals, i.e. there ought to be a public morality.

  2. Rationale: Society is, among other things a community of  ideas, including moral ideas.  Without shared ideas in politics, ethics etc. society cannot survive.
  3. So, society has a right to enforce its judgment on moral issues.  No theoretical limits can be set to the power of society to legislate against immorality.

  4. Rationale:  Society has a right to protect itself from danger.  But an attack on common morality is a danger. (Other leg is education involving religion because we do not know of any other way to teach morality but through religion.)
  5. The moral judgments which should be enforced are those about which the man in the street feels a strong combination of intolerance, indignation and disgust.  No reason need be given.

  6. Rationale: This necessary for the keeping of common morality.  Whether such morality is right or wrong is irrelevant to the right of society to enforce it.
    Problem: Too much stress on feelings and too little on reason (consider the case of witch burning).  At a minimum, there must be a demand for rational justification.
    NOTES:  For Devlin,
Chapter V: Applications

1. Cases in which liberty is unjustly denied because the actions involved are essentially self-regarding:

2. Cases in which freedom is wrongly invoked because the actions involved are other-regarding 3. Objections to state interference even when liberty not at stake: