On Liberty for a New Generation

Seminar Description:

Members of Gen Z—US citizens born after the mid-1990s–are a rising and growing force politically and economically.  COVID-19 will be their 9/11.  They are the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in our history, and they tend to welcome diversity.  While very few of them identify strongly with a political party, they tend to be socially liberal, many have or plan to complete college degrees, and they are, on the whole, better educated than any previous generation.  They have experienced the biggest government bailout in history, and most think that the government should do more to solve social problems.  They value authenticity and fear inheriting environmental ruin.  They are suspicious of customary labels.  And, nowadays, members of older generations have begun to express concerns that they will be the source of a stultifying new moralizing orthodoxy that will not allow for full freedom of thought and expression.  In short, at their best, they are very like the people John Stuart Mill championed in his essay, On Liberty, and, at the worst, they are a potential source of newly minted customary norms of the kind he was trying to combat.  

In this seminar, we will return to Mill’s essay.  In our first meeting, we will lay some groundwork for Mill by discussing his moral psychology, and his character-driven understanding of happiness and a sense of purpose.  This will lead us into discussion of the introduction of On Liberty.  

In our second meeting, we will turn to his arguments in favor of freedom of speech.

Finally, in our third meeting we will discuss his treatment of individuality as one of the components of well-being.

Throughout, we will put his thought in conversation with members of our new generation, looking to Mill for both deeper understanding and a basis for thinking about the ethical challenges we face as this new generation comes of age in a climate of deep uncertainty.


To participate, please register here. You will be asked to register for each session that you plan to attend.
Those who need a copy of On Liberty can view a copy here.

For issues registering for the series, obtaining the reading, or any other questions, please contact Zack Loveless, zloveless at hydeparkinstitute.org.

Seminar Leaders:

Candace Vogler
David E. and Clara B. Stern Professor of Philosophy
University of Chicago

David Brooks
The New York Times Columnist
University of Chicago Alumnus and University of Chicago Trustee