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"Comparison of Rousseau's view of liberty with that of Mill's".

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Introduction

"Comparison of Rousseau's view of liberty with that of Mill's" In his book The Social Contract, Rousseau thinks that what makes man free is the change from a state of nature to the civil society. However, in Mill's On Liberty, he thinks society is in fact threatening the individual, rather than providing freedom for it and it should be limited in order to protect the individual freedom. As can be seen from these two opposing views, Mill's and Rousseau's view of liberty differ from each other. This paper will explain these differences between their views of liberty. Their views about the role of the individual will make the first comparison. Here is what Rousseau says about the role of the individual: "Each of us puts his person and all his power in common under the supreme direction of the general will; and in a body we receive each member as an indivisible part of the whole." 1 What can be understood from this sentence is that Rousseau is denying the role of individuality in society, since individuality threatens the maintenance of the whole and it is against the basic principle idea of the social contract. According to him, only the sovereign can decide what is a concern of the community. ...read more.

Middle

However, Mill completely refutes this idea that citizens will independently make good decisions. What he thinks instead is by not giving people the opportunity to hear the opinions of others; one may not give them the chance to hear an opinion that is better or truer than theirs. What is more, even if the different opinion appears to be wrong, at least that person will feel more confident that their opinion is right. Mill also says that unless man can refute an alternative opinion, he has no grounds for preferring his own opinion. Another point is their differing views about human nature and their ability to do what is in the public interest. Rousseau thinks that man is essentially good-natured, and because he has alienated everything to the community, he has no private interests in the decisions made by the general will. Mill has no such faith in human nature, and its ability to do what is in the public interest. Instead, Mill says the will of the people is too often simply a majority of the people seeking to suppress a part of their number. Rousseau counters this by saying: "...the general will is always right and always tends to the public utility"4 and adding that as civil society develops and exercises faculties, no man would want to risk losing this by breaking the social contract. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, both Rousseau and Mill believe their work is the foundation for ensuring the freedom of man; however, they have different means of achieving it. For Rousseau, it is by the creation of a civil society, for Mill, it is by the freedom of the individual. For Rousseau, it is by the moral quality given to man by his being part of the social contract, for Mill, it is by the continuous questioning of opinions and constant searching of the truths. Rousseau relies on the good nature of man; Mill prefers to place his trust in the surety of conflicting opinions. But regardless of their differing views, both agree that liberty of man is the most important objective for mankind to aim for, and that slavery can never be acceptable where liberty is the basic principle of society. 1On the Social contract, Book I, p.282 2 On Liberty, Introduction, p.14 3 It is the will of the sovereign that aims at the common good. Each individual has his own particular will that expresses what is best for him. The general will expresses what is best for the state as a whole. 4 On the Social Contract, Book II, p.284 5 On Liberty, Chp.II, p.24 6 On Liberty, Chp.II, p.21 7 On Liberty, Chp.V, p.114 ...read more.

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