Social Philosophy Essay

  1. Introduction

As more and more metropoliss. counties. provinces. and counties ban smoking in public topographic points. topographic point high revenue enhancements on coffin nails. and otherwise enact anti-smoking Torahs. clangs between the rights of one group of people and the rights of another are inevitable. If this rule were the footing for make up one’s minding public policy. which Mill advocated as one of its uses. Mill would fall someplace in the center on the smoking/anti-smoking spectrum. Surely. Mill’s harm rule can be ( and has been ) used by both sides to back up their ain statements. In the smoke argument. the injury rule falls short in finding which of two injuries is lesser. or which of two rights or involvements is greater. This is why it is a utile doctrine in argument. but should non be the exclusive footing for statute law and public policy.

  1. John Stuart Mill’s Harm Principle

InOn Liberty. John Stuart Mill argued for a society organized around “one really simple rule … that the exclusive terminal for which world are warranted. separately or jointly. in interfering with the autonomy of action of any of their figure. is self-protection” ( 15-16 ) . This is referred to as the “harm rule. ” and is considered one of the founding rules of utilitarianism ( Wilson 45-48 ) . Utilitarianism is a belief system which adopts the harm rule. reasoning that each person has the right is prosecute his or her ain felicity. every bit long as that chase doesn’t injury another person besides pursing their felicity or public-service corporation ( Wilson 40-44 ) . This is non rather the same as interfering or hindering an individual’s way to happiness. as Mill points out in chapter V ofOn Liberty ;“In many instances. an person. in prosecuting a legitimate object. needfully and hence legitimately causes hurting or loss to others. or stop a good which they had a sensible hope of obtaining” ( 106-7 ) .

In other words. Mill recognized that there was non a Utopia where every person could prosecute felicity with no convergence when. for illustration. two persons pursue felicity through the same. remarkable individual. Mill’s end was to make a rule that could function as the footing for society. in statute law. and in societal criterions and imposts. In the concluding chapter he goes into important item sing the sorts of state of affairss to which this rule could be applied. specifically “how far autonomy may lawfully be invaded for the bar of offense. or of accident” ( 108 ) . Mill favors the strongest stenosiss on autonomy in the instance of kids. where he argues for possible parents holding to turn out their fiscal fittingness in order to hold kids at all. and so to supply instruction for all kids ( 121-122 ) .

On issues of offense. he considers authorities to decently hold a topographic point as a precautionary. administrative organisation than as a legislative and punitory 1 ( Mill 128 ) . Throughout the treatise. Mill treads the line between the autonomies of persons and the committedness each person has to society. seeing persons as heroes who must systematically contend against the whitewashing of democratic society. warning that “If opposition delaies til life is reducedaboutto one uniform type. all divergences from that type will come to be considered impious. immoral. even monstrous and contrary to nature” ( 84 ) .

  1. How the Harm Principle Relates to Anti-Smoking Laws

Mill specifically discusses the “sale of poisons” and revenue enhancements on the sale of certain substances deemed to be immoral ( 109-113 ) . He argues for both the sale and revenue enhancement of. for illustration. intoxicant. as being ordinance that is “not contrary to principle” ( 109 ) . Therefore. we can generalize that he would non needfully be antipathetic to revenue enhancements on the sale of coffin nails. since

It must be remembered that revenue enhancement for financial intents is perfectly inevitable ; that in most states it is necessary that a considerable portion of that revenue enhancement should be indirect ; that the State. therefore. can non assist enforcing punishments. which to some individuals may be prohibitive. on the usage of some articles of ingestion. ( 114 )

This is of import because it underlines Mill’s doctrine of injury as it relates to economic sciences. He did non believe that by adding revenue enhancement which would set the monetary value of a certain point out of range for some persons. that this was “harming” them in such a manner as to enforce on their chase of felicity and public-service corporation. He considered revenue enhancement to be most properly levied against “what commodities the consumer can outdo spare” ( 114 ) . Cigarettes and baccy are surely considered ‘extras’ instead than necessities in modern-day society. but they have non ever been considered as such. So where. at certain points and in certain civilizations. coffin nails were considered something of necessity. the revenue enhancement of them would hold been an invasion from the State onto an individual’s autonomy.

This instance problematizes the relationship between Mill’s injury rule and his theory of democratic societies being slavishly ruled by the bulk sentiment. We have seen an tremendous displacement in popular sentiment sing the usage of baccy in the United States. What may hold been an insult on autonomy 50 or 100 old ages ago ( heavy revenue enhancement of coffin nails and baccy merchandises ) may be viewed now as merely being necessary to fund our authorities. If societies are non inactive entities. and the mores of a individual society may switch over even short periods of clip. how can we be certain that the presently prevalent sentiment is. in fact. the ‘right’ one? Mill believed that “Society has expended to the full every bit much attempt in the effort … to oblige people to conform to its impressions of personal. as of societal excellence” ( 19 ) .

Indeed the revenue enhancement of coffin nails seems to amount to a wickedness revenue enhancement. as more of a penalty than a revenue enhancement of an point which is non perfectly necessary to survival. Medical scientific discipline is non immune to these altering tides in public sentiment. During the waning old ages of Prohibition in this state. teetotallers claimed that the halitus of breath from a individual imbibing intoxicant could efficaciously “poison” an guiltless individual standing nearby ( Stewart lines 18-19 ) . Similarly. anti-smoking advocates claim today that the halituss of fume from one person can adversely impact the wellness of another person.

Mill saw this as an statement against censoring ; “We can ne’er be certain that the sentiment we are endeavouring to smother is a false sentiment. and if we were certain. smothering it would be an evil still” ( 14 ) . While we may non be able to cognize without uncertainty which sentiment is the right 1. Mill saw this as an chance for persons to exert their autonomy through treatment and argument. In theStanford Encyclopedia of Philosophyentry on Mill.Fred Wilson discusses the of import of argument in Mill’s doctrine ;

“Only through free argument can such critical accomplishments be developed and maintained: our self-development as sensible individuals. capable of critical appraisals for belief and action” ( 45 ) . The end is non to bring forth an unerringly ‘right’ determination. but to make a society where unfastened and honest treatment is a portion of the mechanism of autonomy in society. as both a cheque on our human fallibility and an encouragement to advancement.

  1. Why the Harm Principle is Inadequate as a Basis for Public Policy

The injury rule provides a doctrine of the person and his or her relationship to society which is utile as an person or establishment degree doctrine. This is particularly true for those persons or establishments without a set of spiritual beliefs. as the injury rule provides a system of morality to follow. However. as the footing for statute law and public policy. it is slightly unequal. There are. more frequently than non. many people with conflicting involvements. and while the harm rule may organize the footing of treatment. in the terminal an individual’s autonomy may be stifled in favour of another’s.

At that point. the determination has to be made as to which autonomy is more of import. In the instance of smoking prohibitions. an person who derives felicity from smoking. peculiarly felicity from smoking in a public topographic point. where he or she is besides able to imbibe and socialise with friends. is taken off. At the same clip. other persons are non subjected to the possible ailment wellness effects of secondhand fume. The harm rule provides a utile lens through which to border the argument. but policymakers must frequently do somewhat messier determinations thanOn Libertyprovides for.

The very nature of public sentiment as Mill saw it ( which was as a oppressive force ) means that the definitions of injury will alter throughout history and across geographics. This leads to both sides of the smoke argument claiming Mill as a member of their side. In an interview. Mill biographer Richard Reeves. in discoursing the abuse of Mill by policymakers. said that ;

What sometimes happens is that if you are making something that’s really rather paternalistic. and you don’t want to state so because you want to dress it up as a broad policy. you might utilize Mill. And you stretch the injury rule good beyond sensible use to warrant what’s basically a paternalistic policy. The worst thing is to dress up a paternalistic statement in cheapjack. ill-worn. broad vesture ( par. 9 ) .

Mill saw the free idea and operation of the person as being necessary to the advancement of society. and particularly as a cheque against both the State and predominating public sentiment ( 19 ) .

  1. Decision

In this essay I have described and critically examined Mill’s injury rule and how it relates to the modern-day issue of anti-smoking Torahs. I have argued that the injury rule as applied to anti-smoking Torahs is and could be used by either side of the argument. An person who smokes finds his or her felicity circumscribed by the felicity of those persons who do non wish to hold coffin nail fume in the public topographic points they frequent. and frailty versa.

A group of persons are traveling to hold their autonomy trespassed upon in order for other groups of persons to retain their autonomy. and instead than conveying injury to none there are merely grades of injury. which are considered more or less harmful harmonizing to the current tides of public discourse. While this creates infinite for a robust argument ( one of the demands of a society based on autonomy ) . it does non supply a footing for policymakers and legislators to make public policy.

Plants Cited

Mayes. Tessa. “Mill is a Dead White Male With Something to Say. ”Spiked! Review of Books28 March 2008. 16 April 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. spiked-online. com/index. php? /site/reviewof books_article/4923 & gt ; .

Mill. John Stuart.On Liberty and The Subjection of Women. New York: Penguin. 2006.

Stewart. C. “The Case Against Smoking Bans. ” 2002.New York City C. L. A. S. H.18 April 2008

& lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //www. nycclash. com/CaseAgainstBans/Conclusion. html # Conclusion & gt ; .

Wilson. Fred. “John Stuart Mill. ”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. ( Fall 2007 ) .Stanford University. 15 April 2008 & lt ; hypertext transfer protocol: //plato. Stanford. edu/archives/fall2007/ entries/mill/ & gt ; .


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