Rousseau And Mill's Views On Freedom

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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

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