Author(s): John Stuart Mill
'Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign'. To this 'one very simple principle' the whole of Mill's essay "On Liberty" is dedicated. While many of his immediate predecessors and contemporaries, from Adam Smith to Godwin and Thoreau, had celebrated liberty, it was Mill who organized the idea into a philosophy, and put it into the form in which it is generally known today. The editor of this essay, Gertrude Himmelfarb records responses to Mill's books and comments on his fear of 'the tyranny of the majority'. Dr. Himmelfarb concludes that the same inconsistencies which underlie "On Liberty" continue to complicate the moral and political stance of liberals today.
John Stuart Mill was born in London in 1806. He became a leading philosophical radical, active as a propagandist in their intellectual and reforming pursuits. In 1826, he began to rethink his stance and examine alternative positions offered by Coleridge and Carlyle. By the 1840's Mill could offer a mature reinterpretation of his philosophical position. Gertrude Himmelfarb is Professor of History at the City University of New York and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.