On Liberty

Role of Reason in Society College

The state of nature and the emergence of the human capacity to reason has been a common interest for writers throughout history. John Stuart Mill, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke, all address these issues in their works, "On Liberty" , "Discourse On The Origins of Inequality" and the "Second Treatise of Government”, respectively. While all three of these authors agree that the state of nature is the era before civilization and government, they all differ in their ideas of the importance of reason in the state of nature. While Mills and Locke adopt a positive outlook on the role of reason in society, Rousseau believes that it is the basis for the corruption of morals.

In John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, he asserts that the "natural" human capacity to reason is dependent on debate with those of opposing ideas. According to Mill, the goal of debate is not to persuade the other side to convert its way of thinking, but rather to justify one's own views while disproving the opposition. Only through this process, can someone truly understand and construct an opinion. Throughout his work, Mill continually asserts the importance of the individual. Every individual is free to form his or her own opinions about life; however, Mill...

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