Chapter 6

  • According to Mill the sole permissible aim of man in interfering with liberty, whether as an individual or as a society, is self-protection. It is not justifiable to interfere with X’s liberty “for X’s own good”. Rather Mill said that X would be able to maximise his own happiness by taking decisions for himself.
  • Devlin argues against Mill, saying that every man has the ability to affect others so that if he acts immorally, society itself is under attack. Therefore Mill’s attempt to cordon off an area into which the law must not pass makes no sense. He says individualism that reigned in Mills’ time is now defunct e.g. in economic matters. Devlin’s belief still rests on the dodgy premises that (1) Society has a shared morality and (2) that it needs this to survive. Also economics and morality are different. Devlin says that if a large proportion of individuals are consumed by vice then society itself would be weakened e.g. “a nation of debauchees could not have responded to Churchill’s call for blood and toil and sweat and tears”. Hart is not against stopping people physically self harming e.g. limits on alcohol etc. However where there is no physical harm, there is no reason why a society with loose sexual practices would not be able to respond to Churchill’s call. Also he is saying why one particular morality (Christianity) is capable of defending society and NOT that a shared morality in general is necessary for the continuance of society. This contradicts his initial point that any morality, whether based on Islam, Christianity, Hippy-ism etc is fine, so long there is a morality. Could a society of Hippies, who regarded Devlin’s stoic values have responded to Churchill’s call? Thus is Devlin defending shared morality or shared Christian morality? His specific defence of Christian morals (e.g. his belief that homosexuality is unnatural, prostitutes are “exploiters” and drink is wrong) suggests the latter. The very fact that non-Christian societies DO survive disproves his belief that society needs shared morals.
  • Devlin rejects the argument that punishment of a vice that cannot be changed (e.g. homosexuality) causes misery unfairly. He says that misery is caused unfairly, by this account to a paedophile, whose imprisonment causes the same misery as a homosexual- neither of them can physically change their desires. Stupid point: the difference is that a consenting adult homosexual is not being harmed whereas a non-consenting child clearly is.
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