A response to Jason Pontin’s essay on free speech by the author of Principles for a Free Society.

Morals: The ethical concept of morals is the core concept behind the least harm … The Solution: The Harm Principle The sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self protection.

In general, this would seem fine with me. Ethical concepts and least harm: Values: The ethical principle of values plays a part in the least harm principle, because it is an important not to inflict harm on others, or if harm is necessary, the least amount of harm possible. The most a person reading, On Liberty with charity could reasonably expect is a Harm Principle with illustrative examples, and where fitting, appropriate definitions. The harm principle supposedly tells us that we can never interfere with an individual’s conduct except to prevent harm to others. The Incompleteness of the Harm Principle. To insist that Mill’s Harm Principle is specific at every eventuality is tantamount to asking for the impossible simply because the very concept of freedom (or liberty) carries within it an element of vagueness. If, for example, some alcohol addict wants to quit drinking, the society should provide them support.

At the very least, my interpretation of the harm principle allows for such an explanation whereas, on the traditional interpretation, Mill is simply inconsistent.

In particular, we should not cause avoidable or intentional harm. The first known published version of "do no harm" dates to medical texts from the mid-19th century, and is attributed to the 17th century English physician Thomas Sydenham. I think about harm principle not only when deciding which actions should be illegal, but also when deciding which actions should be merely discouraged by the society. The Hippocratic oath, written in the 5th century BCE, does contain language suggesting that the physician and his assistants should not cause physical or moral harm to a patient. The principle of nonmaleficence states that we should act in ways that do not inflict evil or cause harm to others. In health care, the primary focus on harm relates to a narrower definition including pain, disability, or death.

That 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.

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