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The dichotomy between the personal and the political has long been a contentious issue in political philosophy now. With the period of Enlightenment followed by the ascent of modernity the importance of the role of the individual has grown immensely over the centuries. The concept of the individual and notions of agency, freedom and equality are the characteristic features of liberal theory. Philosophers with authoritarian undertones have defied these notions and placed an emphasis on public life and the role of the state. In their views the state is an overarching institution which best knows the interest of its people. But with pluralism and diversity on the forefront, liberals continue to argue for the individual’s own freedom to choose. This paper aims to discuss the issue of this divide between what issues are deemed to be the individual’s choice and what issues are deemed to be addressed by the public sphere. For this purpose it will take into account the texts of John Stuart Mill, Immanuel Kant and Carl Schmitt.
John Stuart Mill addresses the question of civil liberty. He is concerned with that aspect of power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual. Mill reiterates the evolution of how political power developed over time and how it has come to define its sphere today. Initially the leader was considered as someone in opposition to the people at large and his authority a weapon of tyranny against which the people needed to be protected. Soon however the populace gained awareness regarding the idea of leadership and it was thought that the leaders should be actually the representatives of the people as opposed to being antagonistic authorities. People realized that if they could identify with their leaders then their own interests would coincide with the interests of the rulers (Mill, 303). This chain of thought soon developed further and the birth of modern democracy took place.
    Democracy too over time however deteriorated and distanced itself from many of the premises that it was based on. Soon it was realized once again by people that the form of “self government” that was idealized was fading. Moreover the “will of the people” on which the entire system of government was based was in effect the will of the majority. Soon this “will” of the majority displayed itself in the form of the “tyranny of the majority” (Mill, 305). This too at first is perceived by one as something comprising the domain of the political and hence subject to public debate. But Mill contends on the other hand that a form of social tyranny exists. This is when society tends to uphold certain beliefs and opinions and penalizes socially those who deny these opinions. These thoughts of defiance are not punished legally, however the individual who dares this act experiences the interference of society into his personal domain and in a sense as Mill proposes, imprisons his soul. According to Mill there needs to be a limit on the power of collective opinion to the extent that it does not end up crushing the individual opinion (Mill, 305). So Mill is in a sense proposing that the lines of the private sphere must be respected as regards the importance of individuality. Therefore on the question of political despotism, most political theorists will argue that it is something that needs to be addressed by the society at large since it concerns the well being of the entire polity.
The idea of politics is according to most political theorists is to guarantee the protection and welfare of the community which it addresses. Therefore it is essential to impose certain barriers on people’s conduct to ensure that others around them are safe. Some of these barriers such as those against crimes are imposed by law. Some acts on the other hand are those which are not punishable by law but should be through opinion. However how to define these acts and the opinions is one of the most contentious issues regarding separating the role of politics from the individual’s private sphere. Every community has its preferences and choices based on their likings, or due to their servility to their worldly masters or Gods (Mill, 308). Nevertheless no one realizes that what they believe to hold true and universal is in essence their own opinion.
When considering the case of religion, most countries claim to uphold absolute religious freedom however in practice most individuals hold religion close to themselves and in high regard (Mill, 308). This close association of the majority to religion is bound to enter the private sphere of an individual who lives with such people, although politically most liberal democratic states have declared religion to be a matter strictly relevant to the private sphere. The interference of the state too is a matter that depends on people’s opinions. Some people would not mind if the state intervened in their lives and expanded its role for eradicating a social evil. However for some individuals their private space is of immense importance and they are not willing to give it up to the state under any circumstances (Mill, 309).  
   Mill proposes that the only time that power can be rightfully exercised is when it is to prevent harm to others. The individual is in Mill’s consideration, and adult, and he knows what is in his best interest. No external power apart from his own will must lead him to do something that is beneficial for him (Mill, 310). According to Mill, the region of human liberty comprises of liberty of consciousness, liberty of tastes and pursuits, and liberty to unite with other persons for peaceful purposes. Hence he stands for an extended private sphere for the individual which comprises of the aforementioned details on liberty. For him, the true freedom is the freedom to pursue one’s own good in one’s own way (Mill, 313). He compares the states of past generations to the time at which he writes. Previously it was thought that the state has a right to control almost every aspect of people’s lives however today there is no need for this (Mill, 313). So in a sense Mill contends that the private sphere has overtime gained more importance and the public sphere should shrink its role with changing times.  Mill also argues that with the passage of time the tendency of the society to suppress the individual will grow which is why the need to curtail it has become even more important.
    Mill also argues over the importance of freedom of opinion and discussion for every individual. It is in the best interest of the society not to silence the opinion of the individual. There are two possibilities regarding an individual’s opinion, either it could be true or either it could be false. If it is true society will take a longer time to realize the fact and hence lose out. If it is flawed then in that case as well, the person holding it can argue and debate and come to a conclusion that will  satisfy his own reasoning and rationality too rather than the situation where he would simply bow down to social pressure (Mill, 320). The individuality of a person is solely that part of his life which only concerns himself. So in essence the idea of the true, the good and the beautiful is an individual’s own decision and comprises his private sphere which society has no right to intercede in.
  For Kant the use of one’s reason can lead him to enlightenment. He identifies laziness and cowardice as the two main reasons for why people avoid the use of their reason. With regards to cowardice he implies the fear inherent in man of defying established values such as those held by others around him.  Kant’s idea of the public and private use of reason is however slightly distinct from most of political philosophy belonging to the liberal tradition especially. According to him the private use of reason comprises that area where we do something because we are supposed to do it for instance in the fulfillment of our professional duty. On the other hand public use of reason would indicate our willingness to step out of our professional life and develop our own opinion about something (Kant, 43). It is essential for a monarch to merge the “collective will” with his own will. Kant proposes the idea of a ruler who supports religious freedom and so lets the people exercise their reason in the public sphere. This can be a threat as this may produce a consequence such that the monarch’s legislation is challenged. And so such a situation must only occur when the monarch possesses an army to guarantee peace in the land (Kant, 45).  
Kant feels that the exercise of reason which is very much desired can only occur in a Republican form of government. He goes on to discuss the possibility of overlap between politics and morality. He distinguishes between the “moral politician” and the “political moralist” (Kant, 28). Kant argues that the use of coercive authority or force is not necessary when man follows his reason to achieve his goal. This is the road that the moral politician takes. On the other hand the political moralist argues that men by nature will not always do what they ought to and hence this will lead to them to take up methods which may prefer pragmatism over morals. In Kant’s view the moral politician is the one to be revered and upheld. Therefore in a sense Kant places a boundary over the use of private reason. Although he supports the liberty of individuals to think independently in their public sphere however in both spheres he places the condition of morality (Kant, 131). He presupposes the existence of a clear demarcated dichotomy between right and wrong which must be upheld.
Kant argues that the prosperity of the populace does not really depend on the type of government or the degree of harshness imposed by the ruler. Therefore he proposes that “Seek first the kingdom of pure reason and righteousness ad your end (Zweck; the blessing of perpetual peace) will come to you yourself “(Kant, 133). This entails that man must at all times be conscious of his actions and must consider the benefit of the society and the consequences of his actions. He must make sure that reason and righteousness guide him everywhere. At this point a contrast can be seen in comparison to Mill. For Mill, the individual knows what is in his own best interest and that this agency of his needs to be protected against the pressures of society. He makes the idea of right and wrong the domain of the individual only. Although Kant does not clearly talk about  the individual’s morality however if Kant were to view the same situation, he would deem an individual’s will insufficient rather he would contend that the individual before taking any action must take into account the right and wrong as perceived by others and as he would want for others. For Kant, whatever act an individual does, it is essential for him to appreciate the same from others towards himself. But Kant’s main focus remains the role of morality in politics.

Schmitt discusses the lines between the institution of the state and the political. Generally the two terms have been associated to each other and one is used to explain the other (Schmitt, 20). He goes on to explain the pitfalls of this argument. This equation as he calls “state=politics” creates a problem for neutral domains such as religion and culture. They no longer remain neutral and as a result the institution of state becomes an amalgam of everything and fails to mark one particular characteristic to define it (Schmitt, 22). For him the most important demarcation is the “friend enemy” antithesis. According to Schmitt a world without war or the friend enemy antithesis would be a world devoid of politics as well. The enemy will be a public enemy as it will be a collectivity fighting against a collectivity and so the existential “other”. The enemy is “hostis, not inimicus” (Schmitt, 28). All other domains such as cultural, religious etc can only act as secondary proponents to a conflict. There exists a friend enemy divide in every conflict and this deems all such conflicts as political (Schmitt, 37). However if any conflict pertaining to religious or cultural motives can translate into a friend enemy antithesis then it can become political.

The ever existent potential for war is an undeniable reality for Schmitt and hence the state must possess “jus belli” which implies the real possibility of deciding upon the enemy and fighting him (Schmitt, 45). This concept entails that only the state has the right to even ask its people to surrender their right to life and it can order them to take the lives of the “other” as well in any such situation of combat.

Schmitt critiques liberalism as it bases itself solely on the individual and makes his interests prime. On the other hand in Schmitt’s article one can infer an inclination towards authoritarian and an extended role of the state and hence the public sphere. For this reason Schmitt criticizes democracy as well for he feels that it blurs the distinction between the state and the political and amalgamates many of the neutral domains with the domain of the state. In the economic realm liberals perceive competition and in the intellectual realm there is discussion (Schmitt, 71). Schmitt critiques the liberals for at one hand supporting competition economically and on the other hand encouraging societal good. They aim to crush the role of the state and exaggerate the role of the individual. For Schmitt this is highly undesirable as the state requires power since it is the only authority that can decide on the friend enemy antithesis which for him is crucial to the politics.

Unlike Mill, Schmitt is a proponent of the power of the political. He feels that the friend enemy antithesis which is integral to society can only be decided upon by the state. Moreover he has strong disagreements with democracy because he feels that the democratic state is unable to take a strong stand. The fact that it is dependent on the consent of the majority means that it will be ineffective (Schmitt, 23). For Mill however the will of the majority is an evil in itself because it crosses the boundary of an individual’s freedom.
The question of which issues should be deemed political and which ones should be part of the private sphere of individuals, is addressed by different philosophers according to their own political leanings. This paper has explored the ideas of Kant, Mill and Schmitt with regards to this issue. Kant’s method of defining the public and private use of reason is slightly distinct from the other two. For him the use of reason and the issue of morality in politics is more imperative. Schmitt rests his entire concept of the political on the friend enemy antithesis. He argues that the potential of war will always exist and in a sense it can be argued that Schmitt would deny Kant’s idea of “perpetual peace”. This is because for Schmitt every relation can be reduced to the friend enemy antithesis which creates the potential for combat. Mill is overall a strong defendant of the freedom of thought, expression and opinion. He feels that it is in the society’s best long term interest not to curb the potential of every human who has the right to know what is best for himself.  

 Work Cited
 Kant, Immanuel. “An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?” in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, ed. Ted Humphrey (Hackett Publishing Company, 1983).

 Kant, Immanuel. “Perpetual Peace,” in Perpetual Peace ad Other Essays, ed. Ted Humphrey (Hackett Publishing Company, 1983)

Mill, John Stuart. Excerpts from On Liberty. PP. 302-41, in Social and Political Philosophy: Readings from Plato to Gandhi, eds. John Somerville and Ronald Santoni (Anchor, 1963).

Schmitt, Carl. The Concept of the Political (University of Chicago Press, 1996), pp. 53-79.

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