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Philosophers’ Thoughts on Liberty Essay

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Updated: Aug 11th, 2022

John Stuart Mill is one of the many philosophers who contemplated the relationship between freedom and authority in society. The philosopher argues that there are three most important areas that constitute the person’s real freedom and society. First, the philosopher mentions the liberty of consciousness, implying that there should be “absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects” (Mill 16). Secondly, Mill argues that there should be the freedom to design one’s life according to personal values and tastes. The final area includes the right to unite in the groups for various purposes except for those that are intended to cause harm to others. Therefore, according to Mill, a failure to provide even one of the aforementioned basic rights signifies that the society lacks freedom.

The ideas of Stuart Mill, without a doubt, formed the thinking of modern people. For many, the philosopher’s ideas may seem non-original due to the fact that such ideals are already at the forefront of many political discussions around the globe. However, this was not true for the societies before the 19th century, or at least not normal. Therefore, articulating such ideas is of great importance for future development and liberalization from a historical perspective.

However, some philosophers opposed the ideas presented by Mill. The most famous of them is Friedrich Nietzsche, the contemporary of the latter. German philosopher argues that one should have the freedom only for creating something of value for herself or himself or for others and be able to take responsibility for their own actions. For instance, he writes, “Free from what? What does Zarathustra care! But brightly your eyes should signal to me: free for what? “(Nietzsche 46). However, for Nietzsche, only a few can fulfill those standards. For that reason, he argues that only chosen ones (higher men) should have freedom so that they can create, whereas others should serve their needs.

Finally, another philosopher who presented certain critiques of Mill’s idea was Michel Foucault. The philosopher stated that “power is everywhere” and “comes from everywhere,” which extends the concept of Mill’s social and personal freedom (Foucault 93). The author argues that modern authority originates from many places all the time, and it is hard to trace the creator of certain rules of behavior. Due to this, people always live under one or the other norm created and imposed by society and, thus, nobody is truly free.

Works Cited

Foucault, Michel. The history of sexuality. Volume 1: An introduction. Random House Inc, 1978.

Mill, John Stuart. On liberty and other essays. Oxford University Press, 1998.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. Thus spoke Zarathustra. Cambridge University Press, 2006.

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