Mill's Harm Principle as Social Justice

Dissertation, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (2004)
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Abstract

John Stuart Mill proposes the harm principle in his influential writing On Liberty. Traditionally the consistency between his harm principle and the principle of utility has been broadly criticized. The object of this dissertation is to defend Mill's harm principle in terms of his concept of social justice. In Chapter V of Utilitarianism, Mill distinguishes three kinds or three levels of social utility: simple expediency, general morality, and justice. Mill's harm principle, I argue, must be interpreted and defended in terms of justice or rights, not just utility in the broad sense. Therefore, the question regarding the consistency between the harm principle and the principle of utility is not merely about whether the harm principle is conducive to happiness or not; rather, it is the question about justice or rights. Also, the question regarding the exceptions to the harm principle is not merely about in what situations the harm principle is not conducive to happiness; rather, it is the question in what situations we are justified to infringe an individual right. In the first chapter, I shall introduce Mill's concept of happiness and justice. For Mill, justice is a higher source of happiness. In the second and third chapter, I shall defend Mill's harm principle in terms of justice or rights. Finally, in the fourth chapter, I shall discuss some cases where the harm principle is not applicable

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