John Locke and John Stuart Mill\'s Definition of Freedom


John Locke believes that man ought to have more freedom in political
society than John Stuart Mill does. John Locke\'s The Second Treatise of
Government and John Stuart Mill\'s On Liberty are influential and potent literary
works which while outlining the conceptual framework of each thinkers ideal
state present two divergent visions of the very nature of man and his freedom.
John Locke and John Stuart Mill have different views regarding how much freedom
man ought to have in political society because they have different views
regarding man\'s basic potential for inherently good or evil behavior, as well as
the ends or purpose of political societies.
In order to examine how each thinker views man and the freedom he ought
to have in political society it is necessary to define freedom or liberty from
each philosophers perspective.
In The Second Treatise of Government, John Locke states his belief that
all men exist in "a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose
of their possessions and person as they think fit, within the bounds of the law
of nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man. "
(Locke 4) Locke believes that man exists in a state of nature and thus exists
in a state of uncontrollable liberty which has only the law of nature to
restrict it, which is reason. (Locke 5) However Locke does state that man does
not have the license to destroy himself or any other creature in his possession
unless a legitimate purpose requires it. Locke emphasizes the ability and
opportunity to own and profit from property as being necessary to be free.
In On Liberty John Stuart Mill defines liberty in relation to three
spheres; each successive sphere progressively encompasses and defines more
elements relating to political society. The first sphere consists of the
individuals "inward domain of consciousness; demanding liberty of conscious in
the most comprehensive sense; liberty of thought and feeling; absolute freedom
of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or speculative, scientific,
moral, or theological." (Mill 13) The second sphere of Mill\'s definition
encompasses the general freedoms which allow an individual to freely peruse a
"...life to suit our own character; of doing as we like..." (Mill 13). Mill
also states that these freedoms must not be interfered with by "fellow creatures,
so long as what we do does not harm them..." (Mill 13), no matter how odd,
offensive and or immoral they may seem to others. The final sphere of Mill\'s
definition of liberty is a combination of the first two. He states that "...the
freedom to unite, for any purpose not involving harm to others: the persons
combining being supposed to be of full age, and not forced and or deceived."
(Mill 14)
Locke and Mill\'s definitions of freedom must be qualified. Since the
definitions they present in their respective literature are distinct from one
another, when each philosopher refers to freedom or liberty they are not citing
the same concept. This distinction is necessary when comparing their positions
regarding the amount of freedom man should have in a political society. What one
philosopher considers an overt an perverse abuse of liberty the other may
consider the action completely legitimate and justifiable.
John Locke believes that men should be virtually unrestricted and free
in political society. Locke\'s rational for this liberal position lies in the
twin foundation of man\'s naturally good inclinations and the specific and
limited ends Locke believes political societies ought to have. According to
Locke the only freedoms men should lose when entering into a political society
are "equality, liberty and executive power they has in the state of nature into
the hands of society." (Locke 73) In Locke\'s ideal society this fails to limit
or remove any freedom from the individual, it only removes the responsibility of
protecting these freedoms from the individual and places it on the state.
John Stuart Mill believes that man\'s should be strictly limited in
political society. Mill differs from Locke in the basic principle that
individual who enjoy the benefits of living in political societies owe a return
for the protection society offers. Mill believes for society to function
properly conduct of societies members should "not injuring the interests of one
another; or rather certain interests; which either by express legal provision,
or by tacit understanding, ought to be considered rights" (Mill 70) Mill
furthers this statement by proclaiming that society may go even further. "As
soon as any part of a person\'s conduct affects prejudicial the interests of
others, society has jurisdiction over it, and the general question