Electronic Literature: What is it?
In the third chapter Mill argues on lines parallel to those in the second. In one he contends for freedom of discussion to discover social truth and in the other for liberty of action to achieve a vital individuality. In some respects this is the most distinctive part of his essay, because the concept of individuality contributes to his liberalism a more original and more contentious element than the older and long-extolled liberty of speech. His great liberal forbears, like Milton and Locke, never attempted to annex so large and uncertain a territory for the free and autonomous self. Mill’s argument adds a dimension to his view of an open society, and reflects his debt to the German, Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose words form the epigraph to this essay. From Humboldt Mill takes the precept that men must direct their efforts to the “individuality of power and development,” including a necessary scope for freedom and variety in human life (261).
Katherine Hayles (UCLA) Contents
Mill’s increased sympathy for socialism is not evident in Since this work is strongly intended to foster individuality, it is perhaps hardly to be expected that it would pay tribute to the collectivist idea. In the last part of the essay he summarizes his principal objections to government intervention, apart from cases where it is intended to protect the liberty of individuals (305-10). He opposes it in matters which can be managed more effectively by private individuals than by the government, because they have a deeper interest in the outcome. He also opposes it when individuals may be less competent than public servants, but can acquire an invaluable public education in providing the service. Thus they strengthen their faculties, their judgment, and their grasp of joint and diverse interests that deeply concern themselves and society. He finds examples of these in jury service, participation in local administration, and conduct of voluntary philanthropic or industrial activities. Without such practical experience and education, no people can be adequately equipped for success in political freedom. It is the role of the central government, not to engage directly in these activities, but to act for them as a central depository, diffusing the diverse experience gathered in the many experiments of civic activity.
The essays often began with a Latin epigraph as a rhetorical flourish illustrating the good taste and education of the "gentleman author," a practice that has fallen out of favor in more fiercely democratic and egalitarian times.