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Comparison of Mill and Nietzsche

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    Comparison of Mill and Nietzsche

    Friedrich Nietzsche had his own ideas of right and wrong because for him the belief on a God is wrong. In which case he is now proposing what should be right and wrong. That is to disregard God and even to the point of assuming that God is dead that therefore will center the ideas of right and wrong to himself or his concepts only. Just like declaring that this must be the basis of right and wrong and all the rest are wrong. That means he should consider that God is dead and be free to implement his ideas. “It is the ending of our enslavement to idols of the absolute.” (Dolson, 2008). As I understand it, to believe in God is also to accept that there is an afterlife and Nietzsche rejected it.

    He says a person who is doing or being good has the intention of going to heaven and that must be the purpose of his existence. For that case, that person is now like a slave because he is not free to think of about anything else other than the goodness defined by a religious priest or pastor with the reward of the afterlife. For Nietzsche it is a lie. His argument now is to ‘remain faithful to the earth. And fulfill his freedom through self mastery.’

    I think, Nietzsche can be considered as an enemy of the church but not so to the intellectuals and to those who have an open mind of which has the ability to understand him. For me, he is not a bad man because he has the courage to say what is in his mind and that made him an admirable writer. But it must be different for the people who read his books and be obedient to his writings.

    “The slave mentality develops an ethics that extols altruistic or selfless acts and commends the meekness of spirit.” (Mill, 2002) and this means the opposite of this is the ‘master’, a kind of a person who is in my own opinion, self-centered and self righteous because his basis of what is good will depend on the situations. If he is a rich person then he has the tendency to be abusive and cruel. Since what is good or bad will depend on his attitudes and thinking. Of which it must be anything that is favorable to him, he will never care if it will hurt other people. But the concepts of Nietzsche also consider that a person can be fair in his judgment and decisions.

    It rests on Mill’s insistence that logic is an art as much as a science, and that, furthermore, it is an art whose object is the ascertaining of truth. Most misapprehensions over logic are based on a lack of understanding of what it is really supposed to do. Logic is often suspect to the popular mind; it seems to be a way of proving things that are not so. People, indeed, sometimes pride themselves on being illogical. This is the fault of those who regard logic as being a ruthless deduction from ‘supposed universal maxims’.

    IN 1854 when planning On Liberty Mill told his longstanding friend George Grote that he ‘was cogitating an essay to point out what things society forbade that it ought not, and what things it left alone that it ought to control.’ This statement put as much emphasis on control as on liberty, which is just how Grote understood it, for he told another friend, Alexander Bain, ‘It is all very well for John Mill to stand up for the removal of social restraints, but as to imposing new ones, I feel the greatest apprehensions.’

    What Mill told Grote indicates that he intended On Liberty to be a defense of both liberty and control, and also an explanation of the circumstances that called for one or the other. And knowing about this intention, announced in the mid-1850s, makes it necessary that we at least examine the text of On Liberty, published in 1859, to determine if it reflects what the author intended when it was first planned. This is called for all the more by the inclusion in On Liberty of a passage similar to the explanation of his purpose in the conversation with Grote: ‘liberty is often granted where it should be withheld, as well as withheld where it should be granted’.

    The report of what Mill told Grote was published in 1882 in the well-known first biography of Mill written by his friend Alexander Bain. Yet Mill’s statement of his plan for On Liberty is almost never discussed in any of the vast array of articles and books offering interpretations of On Liberty. Nor is the possibility, suggested by the conversation with Grote that Mill advocated substantial controls as well as liberty, ever seriously considered. Instead, most all commentators have regarded Mill as wishing to expand the realm of individual freedom to the greatest possible extent and as reluctantly providing minimal constraints on each individual to prevent harm to others. The most prominent spokesman for this widely shared view, Isaiah Berlin, thus tells us, ‘the definition of negative liberty as the ability to do as one wishes … is, in effect, the definition adopted by Mill.’ As one of the ‘fathers of liberalism,’ Mill wanted ‘a maximum degree of non-interference compatible with the minimum demands of social life.’

    There is, then, broad agreement, that Mill sought an expansive liberty and minimal restraint. The vast majority of commentators hold that, while he places some limits on individual liberty, these limits fall very short of anything resembling control; and that for Mill, interference, denial of choice, coercion, and encroachments on individuality are abhorrent. In the words of one of the most prominent recent interpreters of Mill, ‘If anyone has given classic expression to the case for liberty it is surely Mill. Such is the dominant view. … [He] emerges by common consent as the most eminent advocate of individual freedom.’

    Accompanying this general agreement, it is true; there are differences in interpretation, notably between those who regard Mill’s position as incoherent because he defended liberty as having intrinsic value while also claiming to ground his argument on utilitarianism and those who deny any contradiction.

    He also had this future organic state of society in mind when he made allusions to a future when there would be a reduced need for liberty of speech and discussion. ‘It is useful,’ he said, ‘that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions’, the implication being that once perfection is achieved, diversity, including the liberty that accompanies it, will be less useful. The same implication can be drawn from the statement, ‘in an imperfect state of the human mind, the interests of truth require a diversity of opinions’. The assumption that there can and will be a future state with less diversity and less liberty is even more clearly evident in a passage that forecasts a ‘consolidation of opinion.’

     While Mill asserts the survival of freedom, one is bound to note the parallel between his reference here to ‘general unanimity of sentiment’ and the second of his conditions for stable, permanent political society, which included provision for ‘some fixed point’ that was ‘in the common estimation placed beyond discussion’; as well as the parallel between the first of those conditions, which included training the human being ‘in the habit…of subordinating his personal impulses and aims, to what were considered the ends of society,’ and what he says here about ‘firm convictions … deeply engraven on the feelings by early education.’ Once again, one wonders how experiments in living and an expansive and unpredictable individuality would thrive in such conditions.

    It is evident that Mill was prepared to accept less liberty in a society with a religion of humanity than in a society in a transitional state, but this does not mean that On Liberty, with its strong advocacy of free expression for both speech and conduct, was incompatible with his project for moral reform, including his advocacy of a religion of humanity. Although On Liberty emphasized the permanent value of liberty and therefore its importance in an organic state of society, it also promoted the freedom necessary in a transitional period. Chapters one to three, the most prominent parts of the book, not only celebrated liberty but also justified the liberties that would hasten the demise of the obsolete beliefs and customs of existing society. This was not the entirety of Mill’s argument, however, for in the last two chapters he provides justifications for intrusions and constraints on the selfish persons with miserable individuality who prevented the new organic state of society from emerging and whose conduct might have to be restrained even after the religion of humanity was established. One part of the book emphasized liberty, while the other, without strong emphasis, provided for control. This is how he regarded it. When he planned the book, it will be recalled, he told Grote “he was cogitating an essay to point out what things society forbade that it ought not, and what things it left alone that it ought to control.” (Gregory, 2002)  And this is why he could say that Comte, representing authority and control, had half the truth, while the liberal or revolutionary school, advocating liberty, had the other half.  96  And this is why in On Liberty he held that in the great practical concerns of life it was important to achieve ‘the reconciling and combining of opposites,’ such as sociality with individuality and discipline with liberty.

    Since he was so well aware of the need to combine liberty with sociality, discipline, cohesion, and authority, he became irritated by accusations that he was indifferent to the importance of authority. Thus after reading articles by James Fitzjames Stephen which anticipated Liberty Equality Fraternity, the book in which Stephen presented a defense of authority against what he assumed to be Mill’s position, Mill reacted by saying Stephen ‘does not know what he is arguing against.’


    Dolson, Grace Neal. 2007. “The Philosophy Of Freidrich Nietzche.” Publisher: Kessinger Publishing.

    Mill, John S. 2002. “The Basic Writings of John Stuart Mill: On Liberty, the Subjection of Women and Utilitarianism”. Publisher: Modern Library.

    Gregory, Wanda. 2002. “World Ethics.” Publisher: Wadsworth Publishing.


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