• J.S. Mill, On Liberty, Introduction

Key Concepts & Guidance Questions

Note: Feel free to skip p. 12-13 & 18-19, which are less important

  • Why, according to Mill, are the powers of the ruling authority problematic? (p. 6)
  • How did citizens seek to create ‘liberty’ by limiting the powers of their rulers? (clue: they did this in four ways) (6-7)
  • What is the ‘tyranny of the majority’ and how is it linked to the attempt to limit rulers’ powers? (7-8)
  • Why does Mill claim that ‘social tyranny’ is even more oppressive than political tyranny? (And what does he mean by that term?) (8-10)
  • On what basis does Mill think that society is justified to acting to ‘interfere with the liberty’ of one of its members? e.g. by threatening to punish him or her (14, 15)?
  • What freedoms does Mill think are the fundamentally necessary areas of human freedom? (hint: there are four) (16-17)

Application Questions

  • Can you think of everyday examples of ‘social tyranny’ and the ‘tyranny of the majority’? Does this perhaps happen even in College?
  • Do you agree with Mill’s guideline for society limiting the freedom of individuals? What are the limitations or weaknesses of Mill’s guideline?
  • Do you agree on Mill’s four basic freedoms? Should they be absolute rights, or are there other factors to consider for the good of society?
  • What would Mill say about the freedoms that we enjoy in Singapore? (Or another country you are thinking of)

Case Study

  • Scan through ‘Killing the Buzz: Curbing Public Drinking in Singapore’ (c-207) to help you think through your Final Project proposal. How do Mill’s ideas about rights apply?