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On Liberty by John Stuart Mill Research Papers

Research Papers, custom written, focus on On Liberty, written in 1859 by John Stuart Mill, and may look at the rhetroical strategies that Mill used. Mill espoused liberalism and utilitarianism as well as championing individual’s rights. On Liberty research papers, illustrate clearly Mill's ideas on individuality as a Utilitarian, Mill believes that what brings about the greatest good to the citizenship is what is “right”.

Mill objects to the restrictions on human liberty that the government imposes on people for the sake of human welfare. Thus in your research paper, show that his argument for individuality is founded upon the assertion that it is always wrong to restrict the freedom of another person, as long as it does not harm others. For a man must seek what makes him happiest, since happiness is the ultimate goal.

Examples of Rhetorical Strategies Used

On LibertyTo impart his ideals, Mill uses several rhetorical strategies, for example:

  1. Often, he uses oppositions to create a spirit of controversy in an “us” verses “them” atmosphere. Words such as "friends" and "partisans" are against their "opponents" and give way to a pervasive feeling of battle. Mill sets up his argument this way to encourage debate, which he asserts is essential in the political arena.
  2. Another devise used to create oppositions in his argument is positioning philosophers against each other. On Liberty places Plato and Descartes on one side and Socrates and Bacon on the other.

Rhetorical Strategies Used in On Liberty by Mill

This rhetorical structure is essential to Mill and his representation of “good” and “bad” interpretations of democracy. Mill admits to this directly in the beginning of On Liberty:

Identification of interest between the rulers and the ruled, being, therefore, in a literal sense, impossible to be realized, must not be spoken of as a condition which a government must absolutely fulfill; but as an end to be incessantly aimed at, and approximated to as nearly as circumstances render possible, and as is compatible with the regard due to other ends.

Mill sets himself apart as an advocate of liberty in the process of deliberating individuality. He is both passionate defender of liberty and an intelligent equalizer of the justification of the individual’s goals. As an advocate, he thwarts the label of “justifier” and avoids having to defend whether the facts fit into his assumptions or whether terms such as “good” need to be defined further. An advocate is not a philosopher, he is closer to a politician.

The strategy that Mill has adopted in the third chapter of On Liberty is one of a free forum debate. Mill clearly states that opinions should be given “without reserve”. He than examines whether this is a valid form of political formulating of ideas. The distinction between debate and implementation of ideas must be made, for action is not the purpose of debate. By opening up the floor for debate, Mill is setting up his audience to be relaxed and agreeable. He is asserting that his ideas are merely opinion and thus should not be immediately discarded or accepted. This is a strategy that involves winning one’s adversaries over with a common agreement on an issue not central to the main contention. Mill has the reader agreeing with him before he begins his subject matter, a common strategy of an adept politician.

Next Mill uses the strategy of association to link himself with a well-known and respected politician and philosopher, Wilhelm von Humboldt. By linking himself with someone commonly known and accepted as credible, Mill lends himself credibility. This leads him into his topic of the individual.

Interestingly, he begins this again by forcing the reader into agreement with facts that are undeniable. His use of language forces the reader into agreement by stating that it would be “absurd” to disagree.

No one's idea of excellence in conduct is that people should do absolutely nothing but copy one another. No one would assert that people ought not to put into their mode of life, and into the conduct of their concerns, any impress whatever of their own judgment, or of their own individual character. On the other hand, it would be absurd to pretend that people ought to live as if nothing whatever had been known in the world before they came into it; as if experience had as yet done nothing towards showing that one mode of existence, or of conduct, is preferable to another. Nobody denies that people should be so taught and trained in youth, as to know and benefit by the ascertained results of human experience.

Notice the use of “no one’s idea of excellence” and “No one would assert” and “it would be absurd”. These phrases suggest that a person is not normal if he/she disagrees with the obvious that Mill is attempting to postulate.  By using the word absurd, Mill contends that unless one agrees with his assertion, they will be considered absurd. Again, an adept argumentative style, particularly for winning agreement.

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