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What can we learn from…? JS Mill: freedom and the harm principle
Tuesday 20 February @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pmFree
Room NK14, King’s College, University of Aberdeen
THIS EVENT IS FREE OF CHARGE BUT PLEASE REGISTER VIA EVENTBRITE.
In his famous On Liberty, John Stuart Mill argued: ‘The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant.’
This ‘harm principle’ became the quintessential defence of personal autonomy, acting as a defence against interference in our private choices. But in recent years, a growing sense that all individuals are vulnerable and ‘at risk’ has led to increased worries over a vast array of actions from hate speech to vaping that are now said to threaten individual safety, wellbeing and mental health. One consequence is that an expanded notion of harm is used to argue against freedom and is used to limit our personal choices.
What is Mill’s harm principle and how should we reassess it in an age where harms abound? How do we live together in a society, when one person’s freedom is another person’s nightmare? From smoking bans to anti-social-behaviour orders, have we given up on the principle of tolerance? If we want to enjoy freedom, do we need to demand the right to offend the sensibilities of those who want to deny us that freedom?
Rob Lyons is science and technology director at the Academy of Ideas. He writes on a wide range of issues, but takes a particular interest in issues around the economy, environment, food, energy and risk. He is the author of Letter on Liberty Beyond the Harm Principle and Panic on a Plate: how society developed an eating disorder. Rob is convenor of the AoI Economy Forum.
Alastair Donald is convenor of Living Freedom and author of Letter on Liberty: The Scottish Question
This event is organised by Living Freedom and Aberdeen University Freedom of Speech Society.
Living Freedom University Salons are supported by the Ian Mactaggart Programme, established to foster a culture of open debate, independent thinking and free expression among young people in the UK, especially students. It is administered by the Free Speech Union.