Recommendations from our site

“Mill points out that very often, throughout history, people have thought that they were certainly right, and then turned out to be quite wrong.”

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“Mill is one of those mildly irritating authors like Tocqueville, who say so much so well that it’s difficult to say it better.”

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“What we’re having to relearn now is the fire-in-the-belly liberalism that drove Mill to write On Liberty in the first place.”

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“The problem Mill sees is that society tries to suppress individualism. He thinks social institutions like education and religion and politics always push you towards conformism.”

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On Liberty is a very important document, and one which, because of the clarity with which one can read it and its brevity, is slightly passed over.”

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“What is rich about this work is that it doesn’t just assert the importance of free speech for the speaker without going into why it is important.”

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“I think liberals, of both a libertarian, classical, liberal stripe and a more modern egalitarian stripe, see John Stuart Mill as a common ancestor.”

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“Imagine how John Stuart Mill would feel if he were made to wear a seatbelt because the federal government tells him so.”

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“He thinks that individuality is a good thing in itself, in a romantic way, but also seems to think that by allowing the liberty of thought and discussion, including the liberty to make mistakes, that that has a positive effect overall.”

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The book, according to the author

The Liberty is likely to survive longer than anything else that I have written…because the conjunction of her mind [Harriet Taylor Mill] with mine has rendered it a kind of philosophic text-book of a single truth, which the changes progressively taking place in modern society tend to bring out into ever stronger relief: the importance, to man and society of a large variety in types of character, and of giving full freedom to human nature to expand itself in innumerable and conflicting directions

John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, 1873

Commentary

The appearance of the author of the treatise On Liberty (which we students of that date knew almost by heart) was so different from the look of persons who usually address crowds…

Thomas Hardy, Letter in 'The Times', May 1906

There is much that is true in the part of Mr. Mill’s essay on Liberty which treats of freedom of thought; some important truths are there beautifully expressed, but many, quite vital, are omitted; and the balance, therefore, is wrongly struck.

John Ruskin, Queen of the Air, 1861

[On Liberty] affected me in making me a clearer-headed, braver-minded man on the spot.

Charles Kingsley, Letter to John Stuart Mill, 5 July 1859

Have you seen Mill’s book on Liberty? It is worth reading attentively, being one of the few books that inculcate tolerance in an unalarming and inoffensive way.

Matthew Arnold, Letter to his mother, 25 June 1859

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