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Mill Locke on Liberty

Essay by review  •  December 23, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,049 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,061 Views

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Through out history, many philosophers have discussed the rights of mankind such as existence, liberty and especially property. In the work “The Second Treatise of Civil Government” written by John Locke, mankind’s natural rights are critically examined one by one. This essay aims to discuss whether John Stuart Mill’s harm principle that he mentions in “On Liberty” can be exercised while not violating the natural rights of mankind or not.

First of all, in order to find out the consistency of Mill’s harm principle with Locke’s natural rights, briefly one should examine Locke’s definitions of state of nature and state of war. For Locke, when men live together reasonably and have right to judge each other, without a common authority such as a government it is called state of nature. For Locke, state of nature is a reasonable state that mankind live peacefully. And when men use force, or assert a design of force over other men and threat their lives, where also no common authority is present it is called state of war. Apart from the state of nature, in the state of war, Locke says that “every man hath a right to punish the offender, and be executioner of the law of nature” which drags men into continuous and endless wars and quarrels. Consequently, because of living in state of war, men could not make use of their natural rights such as right of existence, liberty, property, health, and punishment and judgment. One may instantly, without giving you a chance of defend, kill you, take away your freedom, seize you property and can do many other evil and unlawful actions. In order to prevent the brutal outcomes of state of war, Locke highlights the need of common legislative authority over the members of the community which will lead men to state of society where possessing natural rights would have a meaning and use. From these points, with a general survey, one can establish relations with Mill’s harm principle in consistency with natural rights.

Mill’s harm principle lets government or such common legislative authority use power, force or other instruments over persons against their will in order to prevent someone to harm any other. And what Locke is seeking by introducing common legislative power is not much different with Mill’s presentation of harm principle. Let me support my stance by explaining the close relation between the natural rights of mankind and the principle. Right of existence and right of freedom cannot be secured in the state of war. The stronger members of the community would take hold of the others liberty which naturally have to be free from all superior powers and make them his slaves by at the same time threaten their lives, torturing and killing them. And putting forward that they can do anything they want and live in fully satisfied because of the natural right of liberty. But that is not the liberty of men. In such cases, rights of existence and liberty are attached to the willpower of the strongest although they are natural and given by god. True liberty is as Locke defines the freedom of men to follow their own wills and make their choices under the supervision of common legislative powers. So that for Locke such wills and actions that threatens others right of existence will not considered as natural right of freedom and not protected by government and vice-versa government will apply sanctions over whom uses right of freedom in bad faith. Then one shall say that Mill’s harm principle is put into practice over Locke’s natural rights of liberty. They joined together in the state of civilized society holding each other.

Another very significant natural

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