There is no doubt that Mill’s philosophical defence of free speech has become an indispensable part of the western intellectual tradition. Mill himself would not be happy with this development, since he feared that any established opinion runs the danger of becoming dead dogma. Thus, he would urge us to raise again the question of its contemporary significance. It seems that his contribution does not lie in the fact that the free speech rationale he puts forward -i.e. the attainment of truth - constitutes a sufficient ground for a plausible modern free speech theory, since it is weak and it neglects other functions of speech we deem morally important. Although it is not my intention to downplay the impact of the gist of his account, I will focus on certain more peripheral aspects of it that, in my opinion, can prove valuable to present and future European concerns. In particular, I will argue that:
b) Mill in sharp contrast to earlier liberals (cf. Constant) warns us that the government should not be regarded as the main threat to freedom of expression. He worries more about certain attitudes he attributes to the "public mind". One of them is the "presumption of infallibility", namely "the undertaking to decide [a].. question for others, without allowing them to hear what can be said on the contrary side". Today is not so much the public that presumes infallibility - and if it does, its responsibility is diminished - but the media which have become the only source of information for many people. Mill’s remarks can help us understand the ways mass media might, despite appearances, hamper freedom of thought and expression.
c) Mill elaborates a discussion ethic for hotly debated and controversial issues. Intellectual humility, tolerance, willingness to put everything on the table, openness to criticism, first hand knowledge of the views you oppose, respect for the discussants and a charitable understanding of their positions are some of the constituents of this model. It appears that in a future politically integrated Europe where conflicts stemming from cultural differences will abound, this discussion ethic will be desperately needed.
The paper analyzes the affiliated concepts of nature, mind, society and rights held by late-Victorian and Edwardian new liberals. The theory of society and rights developed by Edwardian intellectuals like L.T. Hobhouse, J.A. Hobson and Graham Wallas may be seen as an elaboration of J.S. Mill's ideas of both nature and liberty, modified by the fin de siecle's concepts of evolution, survival and the irrational. This progressive liberal view of nature and personality may be seen as a theoretical support for the idea of welfare rights. Though it was a particularly 'period' cluster of notions and many of its components seem archaic today, its residues may still be observed in widespread psychological concepts such as individual development, attachment and parental deprivation.
British liberal feminists were wont to align their call for women's
rights with an insistence on women's duties. These they in turn saw as
closely associated with civic virtue. Taking Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication
of the Rights of Women as its point of departure, this paper will consider
some of the assumptions that underwrote selected liberal feminists' understanding
of women's rights, women's duties, and civic virtue in the period ca. l790
Liberty is one of the most universally acknowledged values in world
today. Every language in the world has its own corresponding word
for the English word ‘liberty’. The Japanese word for 'liberty' is
‘Jiyu’. But, once we compare the set of ideas of ‘Jiyu’ with that
of ‘liberty,’ we easily recognize that the two sets of ideas do not entirely
overlap each other. With this reflection in mind, the paper tries
to restate the characteristics of the Western concept of liberty.
It says that the core meaning of the term liberty in the West, from the
days of Ancient Greek ‘eleutheria’ up until at least the end of the eighteenth
century, has been one’s condition as well as ability to do something good
without being subjected to the will of others. It then asks whether
or not this essentially teleological concept of liberty has changed to
a more neutral one when, for example, B. Constant distinguished modern
liberty from the ancient one, or when Sir Isaiah Berlin proposed his concept
of negative liberty.
The British Idealist philosopher Bernard Bosanquet (1848-1923) elaborates
a theory of freedom which is structured around the metaphysical foundations
of his theorising. For him, freedom is an intrinsic quality of the nature
of the human being that, in its real or completed form, is associated with
the effort of the finite human individual to transcend the inherent limitations
of his/her constitution and to attain a state of ontological completion
or perfection. Freedom is not one's ability to get what one wants but the
ability to assert the essence of individuality in a complex relational
framework that spiritually defines the meaning of the self in its teleological
association to otherness. The paper endeavours to reconstruct Bosanquet's
theory of freedom and to examine its strengths and limitations as
an explanatory framework related to the metaphysics of the self.
Kant’s cosmopolitanism continues to be discussed in light of his theory of international justice and thus is viewed as a label that simply describes his call for an international federation of states in order to work toward conditions of perpetual peace. Indeed, in his early political essays, Kant himself uses the term cosmopolitanism in this manner. In his later writings, however, including Toward Perpetual Peace and The Metaphysics of Morals, Kant began to develop a more precise and theoretically distinctive understanding of cosmopolitan justice. Kant began to articulate a conception of “cosmopolitan right” [Weltbürgerrecht, or ius cosmopoliticum] that was conceptually distinct from his two other concepts of “right”: civil (or domestic) right, which secured both the rule of law and republicanism at the level of a single state, and international right, which provided normative criteria for inter-state relations. In this essay, I explain how the understudied and still widely misunderstood concept of cosmopolitan right in Kant’s political philosophy refers to the conditions of justice that should obtain between states and foreigners and between subjects of different lands. In light of this understanding of cosmopolitan right, Kant criticized European imperialism and defended non-European peoples against what he viewed as the arbitrary and destructive powers that were being exercised by trading companies (such as the British East India Company), explorers, and other (usually European) travellers who visited (and often ultimately conquered) foreign lands. The moral and political issues surrounding refugees and displaced peoples are the contemporary examples that come closest to Kant’s concern to justify “a right to visit” foreign lands as long as conditions of cosmopolitan right are respected as well as the right to expect “hospitable” treatment as strangers and visitors to foreign lands. This is an aspect of the history of rights and liberalism that is often overlooked, yet it plays a crucial role in Kant’s political thought. For Kant, rights should not be theorized only at the level of a state or at the level of inter-state relations; for true justice to emerge, rights must also be formulated to protect foreigners in their interactions with states or quasi-sovereign powers and to protect those who cross borders.
At the turn of this century a new liberalism became a dominant
ideology in public debates regarding society. Like the old laissez faire
liberalism, the new ideology emphasizes individual freedom as a supreme
value for social development, and it defines the mutuality between society
and the individual as "external relations". Unlike old liberalism this
new ideology emphasizes positive human rights and the duties of a welfare
These kinds of policies might lead to positive effects on several areas of life, but the new liberal ideology has its limitations which, on its own premises, the ideology will obscure. From an analytical point of view, however, it is possible to identify a shortcoming in the understanding of the character of culture on these premises. This can easily lead to inadequate measures for upholding moral motivation and cohesion as a counterbalance to social anomie. It can also lead to fragile frames for family formation and reproduction. At the same time, liberal concepts of individual rights may prove inadequate for necessary means for limiting demographic growth in some parts of the world and unlimited growth of consumption in other parts of the world. The New Liberal Frame for understanding Human Rights will inevitably lead to conflicts with those ecological conditions that are necessary for a safe future.