In John Stuart Mill: The later years …with his wife
Liberty, itself, is usually defined as the state of being free, that is, within society from oppressive limitations established by authority on the way of life, behavior or political views.
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§ 51. To conclude: what liberty Adam had at first to make any complex ideas of mixed modes, by no other patterns but his own thought, the same have all men ever since had. And the same necessity of conforming his ideas of substances to things without him, as to archetypes made by nature, that Adam was under, if he would not wilfully impose upon himself; the same are all men ever since under too. The same liberty also that Adam had of affixing any new name to any idea, the same has any one still (especially the beginners of languages, if we can imagine any such), but only with this difference, that in places where men in society have already established a language amongst them, the significations of words are very warily and sparingly to be altered: because men being furnished already with names for their ideas, and common use having appropriated known names to certain ideas, an affected misapplication of them cannot but be very ridiculous. He that hath new notions, will, perhaps, venture sometimes on the coining of new terms to express them; but men think it a boldness, and it is uncertain whether common use will ever make them pass for current. But in communication with others, it is necessary, that we conform the ideas we make the vulgar words of any language stand for to their known proper significations (which I have explained at large already) or else to make known that new signification we apply them to.
§ 34. Were I to talk with any one of a sort of birds I lately saw in St. James’s Park, about three or four feet high, with a covering of something between feathers and hair, of a dark brown colour, without wings, but in the place thereof two or three little branches coming down like sprigs of Spanish broom, long great legs, with feet only of three claws, and without a tail; I must make this description of it, and so may make others understand me: but when I am told that the name of it is cassuaris, I may then use that word to stand in discourse for all my complex idea mentioned in that description; though by that word, which is now become a specific name, I know no more of the real essence or constitution of that sort of animals than I did before; and knew probably as much of the nature of that species of birds, before I learned the name, as many Englishmen do of swans, or herons, which are specific names, very well known, of sorts of birds common in England.
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§ 23. That willing, or volition, being an action, and freedom consisting in a power of acting or not acting, a man in respect of willing or the act of volition, when any action in his power is once proposed to his thoughts, as presently to be done, cannot be free. The reason whereof is very manifest: for it being unavoidable that the action depending on his will should exist, or not exist: and its existence, or not existence, following perfectly the determination and preference of his will; he cannot avoid willing the existence, or not existence of that action; it is absolutely necessary that he will the one, or the other; i. e. prefer the one to the other; since one of them must necessarily follow; and that which does follow, follows by the choice and determination of his mind, that is, by his willing it; for if he did not will it, it would not be. So that in respect of the act of willing, a man in such a case is not free: liberty consisting in a power to act, or not to act; which, in regard of volition, a man, upon such a proposal, has not. For it is unavoidably necessary to prefer the doing or forbearance of an action in a man’s power, which is once so proposed to his thoughts: a man must necessarily will the one or the other of them, upon which preference or volition, the action or its forbearance certainly follows, and is truly voluntary. But the act of volition, or preferring one of the two, being that which he cannot avoid, a man in respect of that act of willing is under a necessity, and so cannot be free; unless necessity and freedom can consist together, and a man can be free and bound at once.
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§ 47. There being in us a great many uneasinesses always soliciting, and ready to determine the will, it is natural, as I have said, that the greatest and most pressing should determine the will to the next action; and so it does for the most part, but not always. For the mind having in most cases, as is evident in experience, a power to suspend the execution and satisfaction of any of its desires, and so all, one after another; is at liberty to consider the objects of them, examine them on all sides, and weigh them with others. In this lies the liberty man has; and from the not using of it right comes all that variety of mistakes, errours, and faults which we run into in the conduct of our lives, and our endeavours after happiness; whilst we precipitate the determination of our wills, and engage too soon before due examination. To prevent this, we have a power to suspend the prosecution of this or that desire, as every one daily may experiment in himself. This seems to me the source of all liberty; in this seems to consist that which is (as I think improperly) called free-will. For during this suspension of any desire, before the will be determined to action, and the action (which follows that determination) done, we have opportunity to examine, view, and judge of the good or evil of what we are going to do; and when, upon due examination, we have judged, we have done our duty, all that we can or ought to do in pursuit of our happiness; and it is not a fault, but a perfection of our nature to desire, will, and act according to the last result of a fair examination.