J.S. Mill’s Harm Principle

Philosophy / April 23, 2015 / No Comments /
An argument that the liberty to deviate from societal norms, the requisite for producing individuals, certainly yields maximal utility, for the most well-developed person has become the best human that he can possibly be, contra Mill.

“. Intervention against personal liberty cannot promote utility. Even if it were granted that a proper intervention against individual liberty would maximize an individual’s productive capacity, then men merely might gain more food, better houses, and an increase in total wealth. However, such men would not use any of their human faculties that separate them from animals; these mechanized unthinking imitators would have as much inherent human worth as an automaton. In contrast, the man who exercises his liberty to choose his own plan of life, even if less productive than that which could be centrally directed, uses all of his faculties: observation, reasoning, judgment, firmness, and self-control. Because `it really is of importance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it,` increasing our available material goods undermines utility if it requires the wholesale conversion of men into automatons or apes (962). Indeed, the liberty to deviate from societal norms, the requisite for individuality which produces well-developed human beings, as opposed to ape-like automatons, certainly yields maximal utility, for the most well-developed person has become the best human that he can possibly be. ”


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