Study Questions for John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty

[You have to read only Chapters III and V. Nevertheless, you are encouraged to

familiarize with the fourth chapter and I listed to study questions to help you.]




Chapter III.

1.     Should men be allowed to express all of their opinions in actions? When can society or government legitimately intervene and stop or punish a person?

2.     Why does Mill think that individuality is intrinsic to happiness? What kind of person does Mill deem as a true individual?

3.     What are the advantages of the eccentric or outlandish? What is the role of genius in human progress? What is the connection between eccentricity and society? How do they influence one another?

4.     What Calvinist doctrine does Mill criticize and on what basis?

5.     Is a certain degree of social conformity necessary for stable government? What are the dangers of the “crowd” or conformism?

6.     Does conformity lead to mediocrity?


Chapter IV.

1.     What burdens and limits can the society justly impose upon the individual?

2.     How should we treat the morally reprobate? Does Mill condemn those who would give advice and try to persuade others whom they think are acting inappropriately? Why or why not?

3.     How does Mill deal with the objection that there are “private” acts which nonetheless injure others, such as when drinking leads to indebtedness, accidents, or crime?

4.     What are the minimum requirements for free individuality? When can the state act paternally?


Chapter V

1.     What is the difference between self-regarding and other-regarding actions?

2.     What is Mill’s position about the freedom of trade? What types of restrictions would Mill find acceptable on the sale of poisons or guns, and upon what principle are these restrictions based?

3.     How does Mill defend the freedom to advise or encourage others to do what is considered wrong by society? What is Mill’s opinion about outlawing gambling houses? How does Mill end up approving higher taxes on alcohol?

4.     Can the state refrain a man from selling himself into slavery?

5.     Can the state interfere in the family? Why or why not?

6.     What does Mill say about marriage and about education?

7.     What is Mill’s position about selling poison?




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