Rousseau And Mill's Views On Freedom

Great Essays
Freedom is a foundation that guides the framework of everyday society. It is a principle that is responsible for the creation of law, government, institutions, behavior and so forth. As Americans, we have found ourselves fortunate enough to be guided by a democratic government that serves to protect the freedoms of the individuals who proudly chant the motto, “Land of the Free and Home of the Brave”. Yet, often people fail to truly understand what freedom means. In order to do so, it is critical to examine historical political writings on freedom, specifically the teachings of Rousseau and Mill. The specific thoughts of Rousseau and Mill on freedom, the significance of social contracts, individual versus social freedom, and government’s role …show more content…
Rousseau places a great deal of importance on the common good and therefore somewhat rejects personal freedoms. He believes that in order to be a part of the Social Contract, in which he believes man is free, personal freedom must be ignored. In the state of nature, man is free to indulge in their personal needs and freedoms and therefore must be disregarded in order to unsure the common good. If an individual disagrees with the majority, they are inherently wrong and should be forced to obey the general will. Rousseau states, “whoever refuses to obey the general will will be forced to do so by the entire community” (Rousseau, 150). In other words, if an individual rejects or contradicts the ideas expressed by the community, the community should be able to force that individual to submit to their opinions. It is at this point in which Rousseau and Mill differ. This act of forcing conformity would be seen as a form of tyranny to Mill who values the freedom of the individual. In order for society to progress, individual freedoms must always be expressed foremost. Indeed, Mill agrees that man should not behave in ways that would harm others but they should still be free to do as they wish. He states, “In all such cases there should be personal freedom, legal and social, to do the action and stand the consequences” (Mill, 64). But, in defining freedom, as expressed earlier, …show more content…
In Rousseau’s argument, men cannot be as free as they are in the state of nature in modern society and asserts that that institutions and structures in modern society contradict the freedom and natural goodness of man. Yet, a specific government may be able to provide its members with a certain amount of freedom that somewhat amounts to that present in the state of nature. He writes, in regards to the role of government, “Find a form of association which defends and protects with all common forces the person and goods of each associate, and by means of which each one, while uniting with all, nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before” (Rousseau, 148). The ultimate goal of the government is to ensure the natural freedom of its societal members. The law put forth from the government should be a reflection of the general will of the community. In order to guarantee the loyalty of its members, the law should also appropriately protect the individual freedom of its people. In regards to Mill, it appears that he somewhat agrees with Rousseau’s argument of the function of government. Mill argues for a representative democracy that would facilitate the development and evolution of liberty for its members. He believed that a representative democracy would only represent the interests of its people and would therefore lessen the resistance between the ruler and its people. Mill

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    With this famous expression, Rousseau asserts that modern states repress the physical freedom that is our birthright and do very little to secure our civil freedom. It should be stated that there’s a difference between natural and civil liberty: natural liberty is the freedom to pursue one’s own desires whereas civil liberty is the freedom to pursue the general will. In Rousseau’s Social Contract, the general will is an important concept and it is defined as the will of the people as a whole. It cannot be transmitted and it is always right. To put the general will in context, human beings would act according to the general will if we were not depraved by society.…

    • 1793 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Locke's government specifically directed itself towards protecting and maintaining a man's property. It goes to show that Locke favors the idea of protecting a person's property over their life and liberty. Revealing in the Second Treatise of Government it shows that protecting one's property was the reason people in the state of nature allowed themselves to consent to governing. Locke still had similar ideas to Rousseau about equality, but Locke lacked the fact that to run a civil society, one must grant equality upon everybody considering it is a need that will show as functioning properly. Locke introduced separate ideas to what can happen with an individual's equal rights.…

    • 1596 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Rousseau's Social Contract

    • 1140 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Rousseau believes that if an individual (the minority) refuse to obey the social compact or general will (the majority) by means of the particular will, it must then mean that these individuals cannot make the righteous decisions for themselves and would need the guidance of the collective in order to join the social compact and conform to the general will, as the general will represents the meaning of what is good for all, hence; ‘to be forced to be free’. In other words, Rousseau fully entrust his notion on the general will as he believes that the common good does not fall in one particular aspect of an individual, but rather that of the whole society. If these individuals refute, and do not conform to the contract, it must be the responsibility of society or general will to force them to be free, and to therefore conform to the…

    • 1140 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Great Essays

    Hobbes cared about maximizing liberty, defining social justice, and knowing how to divide the limits of the government power. The process of the state of nature is formed by a community and a government. People would view him as a “Psychological egoist” he was over the top with an unrealistic view of human nature. In the laws of nature and the social contract, “Hobbes thinks the state of nature is something we ought to avoid, at any cost except our own self presentation” (Thomas Hobbes). Hobbes believed in a social contract and how it would help the government rule the society.…

    • 1796 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Great Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Disobedience In Society

    • 1172 Words
    • 5 Pages

    This paper defends the right of citizens to consciously disobey laws in their society, after examination. People have a right to form idiosyncratic beliefs through their own conscience and rationality. Individuals should demonstrate the values they believe are worth losing their life, liberty, and property, through their actions. The actions they choose should not cause irreversible damage. People, compelled to act must do so regardless of the justness of their society.…

    • 1172 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Superior Essays

    The social contract was then put in place to secure man’s need for protection. Hobbes believed that the social contract was a “compact between the subject to obey the sovereign” (Montmorency 53). The problem with Hobbes’ theory starts with his belief that all humans are inherently selfish. He believes that people only work for their best interests, however, he also says that they have the rational capacity to create the best means to the end they want (Friend). He argues that man would choose to give up all of their natural rights because they believe that it is their best option for self-preservation.…

    • 1276 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    While he acknowledges the importance of liberty, he believes that people should entrust authorities entirely with the judgment. What is more, people have to obey the judgment of the magistrate as they are driven by the good of public welfare, not by self interest. The ruler, however, has to be wise and impartial. Only then the judgment can be fair and just. Locke does not hide his distrust with masses as he believes that it is much better to put the power in the hands of a small group or individual rather than the whole community.…

    • 1166 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Can society advance without all of its people? In John Stuart Mill’s essay “On Liberty”, he makes the argument that we should have the freedom to perform any actions we wish, as long as those are not causing harm to any others. Mill makes a number of justifications for his argument throughout his essay. He understands that in order for society to function, there needs to be certain restrictions on individual’s liberty. He believes society’s control over an individual’s liberty should only be restricted to prevent harm to others.…

    • 1816 Words
    • 8 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Improved Essays

    They both advocated for individual freedom and expression. Mill backed self-progression over group-progression, not to harm fellow citizens, but to uphold the idea of individual freedom. Mill thought as long as it was not at the cost of a fellow citizen, then the individual’s interests may surpass the interests of the whole, in search of individual liberty. Mill wanted citizens to support society as a whole similar to Tocqueville, however Mill thought individualism was more important than the greater good. Tocqueville thought the greater good should be upheld alongside, or before individualism.…

    • 724 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Mill and Rawls both have a belief on the right to the basic liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom of action, and freedom of assembly. Although Mill believes in society doing what is best for the majority, Rawls considers the fact there must be principles created to regulate the actions of each individual. Their theories both give humans the right to their own bodies, and to pursue what ever they would like to do, since every individual should be privileged to make the decisions that they please for their own selves. Similarities can be seen among the two, both seeing a just society. They both disagree with the idea of conformity, seeing as they promote individuality and the right to do as one…

    • 1373 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays