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Explain the following lines from On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.  "He who lets the...

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maahaa | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted March 19, 2011 at 6:47 AM via web

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Explain the following lines from On Liberty by John Stuart Mill.


"He who lets the world, or his own portion of it, choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation. He who chooses his plan for himself, employs all his faculties. He must use observation to see, discrimination to decide, and when he has firmness and self-control, to bold to his deliberate decision."


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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 19, 2011 at 7:04 AM (Answer #1)

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This famous quote comes from John Stuart Mill's great work On Liberty, so I have moved this question to the appropriate group. In this quote, the author makes a comparison between two types of people. According to this quote, the world is full of two groups of individuals. The first lets the world choose their "plan of life" or destiny for them. They are thus described as passive characters who don't need any other skills or abilities except the "ape-like one of imitation." The author is saying that those who let the world decide their future need only to know how to imitate.

However, the second group of people are those who choose their destiny or plan for themselves. These people, in contrast to the "ape-like" imitators, must use all of their gifts and abilities to be successful. They need to be shrewd observers, they need to have wisdom to know how to act and above all they must have self-control and firmness to stick to their decision to be active and choose their own path in life.

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