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Mill and the Case for Diversity

  • Susan Mendus
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Part of the Issues in Political Theory book series

Abstract

John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty is one of the most important, yet puzzling and controversial works in the whole corpus of political philosophy. Published in February of 1859, it purports to present and defend ‘one very simple principle’ and to serve one single purpose. It is, in Mill’s own words, ‘a philosophic text book of a single truth … 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’. It urges the importance of individual freedom in face of ‘the despotism of custom’ and ‘the demand that all other people should resemble ourselves’. It warns against ‘dulling conformity’ and ‘the Chinese ideal of making all people alike’. It inveighs against ‘the tyranny of public opinion’ and advocates eccentricity as the only means of breaking that tyranny. It is, in brief, a paean of praise to unbridled individuality and human diversity (Mill, 1978).

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© Susan Mendus 1989

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  • Susan Mendus

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