Comparative Analysis


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Assignment #2: Comparative Analysis

The principle developed by Mill about conduct and its effects, is known as the harm principle. To create a distinguishing aspect between one harming themselves and the society, Mill argues that harm on others is a prima facie that warrants punishment by law. However, in instances when an individual inflicts harm on himself or herself, they cannot be punished based on the morality of the law, as they are not interfering with the societal or other individuals’ liberties[1]. To further create this distinction, Mill reiterates that the harm principle is solely directed towards controlling the conduct of an individual when their intent is to harm others. This is the only instance that punishment and power can be exercised rightfully as this conduct might produce a negative reaction or impact on someone else.

The second means through which Mill elaborates on this difference is by arguing that when harm is committed on the society or an individual, there is justification to punish the perpetrator. However, as he further purports, when an individual is only causing harm to themselves and not to others or the society, the only actions that can be taken include trying to reason, persuade, entreat, or stop the individual[2]. It is unacceptable to compel or punish them to stop performing the harm inflicting action on themselves.

Thirdly, he suggests that the interference of a person’s liberty through restraining is considered as an evil. According to Mill, any form of curtailment or restriction that is aimed at deterring a person from exercising their liberties is evil[3]. Hence, from this claim, one can deduce that individuals should respect each other’s liberties whether they approve of them or not.

Another deduction made from Mill’s argument is that when a person inflicts harm on himself or herself, they are exercising their liberties[4]. However, in case scenario where they are restricted, it is valid to state that their liberty is being curtailed. This amounts to breaching the harm principle. The importance of this principle and the justification provided by Mill to support it is to empower the various authoritative structures to respecting each person’s liberty unless they are inflicting harm on others. Additionally, the argument elucidates on democracy and freedom for a person to make his or her own choices without being coerced into conforming to a particular standard.


[1] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 90.

[2] Ibid, 90

[3] John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (New York: Penguin Books, 2006), 91

[4] Ibid, 91

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