Social Progress: Science and the Individual

Published: 2019-05-22 15:16:35
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Individual liberty and civil liberty are two significant aspect that determines how well humans establish themselves in a society and how they thrive and bring about change and development. Historically, civil liberty was not widely spread as individual liberty was. The individual liberty, however, had some limitations as the mode the government adapted to deals with barbarians was not efficient enough. It encouraged them to improve and thrive more. The individual liberty did not however bring any change in the society, and a solution had to be sought. As Mill argues, The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs or impede their efforts to obtain it. The total development can, therefore, be achieved by cooperation of our individual efforts to form civil liberty.

According to John Stuart Mill, human development originates from their personal preferences, situational variety and freedom of expression. He argues that a human being can neither succeed with pure individuality nor exclusively with societal influences and conformity. For the development of humans to occur, the two factors must be balanced. However, the development of humans is inhibited by three major factors: The danger of personal preference without reason, our society's continuing lack of situational variety, and our overall lack of freedom of expression caused by what we now call PC', or Political Correctness. These factors not only stagnate personal development but also, the development of the society in general.

Woodrow Wilson has a slightly different perspective on the origin of development. He takes an analogy of America Americans have never been stand-patters who resist change. And Progress is the word that charms their ears and stirs their hearts (Wilson, 1998). from his argument, Wilson suggests that for the society to experience the desired development, the young generation must not live as their fathers did. The young generation is being looked upon to bring about development hence they must adopt appropriate political education that does not follow their fathers ways and their founding fathers ideas.

Mill believes that our society has embraced the idea of personal preferences without reasoning hence it inhibits human development. When people fail to move out of their cocoon, and they tend to believe that their personal preference are the only right answers then the persons are limited from sharing their ideas and they cannot develop beyond their level. He refers to this notion as the assumed infallibility (Mill, 1926). For the progress to occur, we need to acknowledge that our perceptions could be wrong and be ready to listen and share with other peoples opinion. Also, the group that holds power in the society should accommodate those other with different opinions and provides them with an opportunity to share ideas for the benefit of all. This is significant as it gives them a voice and encouragement to contribute to the development of the society as well as individual development. Cooperation amongst the individuals with different opinions is the only way out for the success and the improvement of our society.

Wilson ideas on where we should focus our ideas to bring about progress slightly vary with those of Mill. While Mill focuses on cooperation among the individuals, Wilson calls for cooperation among the parts of the government without checks against one another. Living political constitutions must be Darwinian in structure and practice. Society is a living organism and must obey the laws of life, not of mechanics; it must develop. All the progressives ask or desire is permission in an era when development, evolution, is the scientific wordto interpret the Constitution according to the Darwinian principle (Wilson, 1998). With this Wilson means that for development and progress to occur, people within the society ought to do away with the need for protection of individual rights by the separation of powers. Instead, they should be set free from the old constraints demanded by unchanging and flawed human nature. The government should also play its part by using its powers to deal with current political and economic conditions. The independence that people got should allow them to fight the tyranny of special interests, selfish business and political machines that would minimize evils in the society hence causing development and progress.

While addressing the issue of individual and society, John Stuart Mill and Woodrow Wilson take the same perspective. Mill argues that mankind has been unable to accept diversity. They want to remain their won individuality with the selfish idea that other people will resemble us. Due to this resistance to changing and acknowledging their peoples ways of living, both individual and society development cannot be achieved. Will criticize the embracement our traditions and customs that are outdated and which prevent people from developing. In fact, as Mill puts it, individual as well as society development can be said to have been achieved only people accept to alter their inclinations and desires having considered their past, present, and the future.

Wilson adapts the same perspective that Mill uses on individuality and society. Bill bases his argument on the kind of business that Americans do. According to Mill, the laws guiding the way businesses are conducted in America are the same laws that have been in existence for a long time. Laws that favor businesses done by individuals rather than those done be great combinations. And we have got to adjust them. I do not say we may or may not; I say we must; there is no choice (Wilson, 1998). He goes on demonstrating that the current laws do not fit the need for development in the society at large. The laws are meant to promote the facts and, therefore, the situation that America is facing if the fact in this case. Need for development within the society at large is the fact in this case, and hence the laws should be adjusted to fit the need in order for development within our society to be attained.

The manner in which politics is conducted in America must also change. The government was designed to cater for the need of everyone in the country, but unfortunately it ended up in the hands of few bosses who care only for their special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the democracy that was meant to be for the good of all the citizens. Indeed, these were all the things that have been done in the past and which contributed significantly to the retardation of the society development and mutual individual development. Wilson, however, does not advocate for the disconnection between with the past completely. Instead, he recommends for some changes that will promote development. If a change has to be done, then it must not be done for the sake of having a change. The change should occur to bring improvement of the individual lives and the well-being of the society.


Mill, J. (1926). On Liberty. S.l.: Longmans,g.

Wilson, E. O. (1998). Consilience: The unity of knowledge. New York: Knopf.


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