The Influence of John Stuart Mill on Oscar Wilde’s Concept of Freedom

Gustavo Hessmann Dalaqua

Resumo


 

ABSTRACT
This article aims to analyze the influence John Stuart Mill had on the concept of freedom put forth by Oscar Wilde in his essay The Soul of Man under Socialism. In the first section, we shall explain the doctrine of freedom presented in Mill’s On Liberty. In this work, Mill contends that liberty rules out blind obedience to custom. According to him, individuals can become free only when they criticize custom and start developing themselves in an autonomous way. For Mill, liberty partakes of an aesthetic dimension: by freely developing themselves, individuals would turn their lives into a noble and beautiful object of contemplation. This thesis is similar to Wildean dandyism, a doctrine according to which human life should be the object of artistic endeavor. In the second section, our goal will be to analyze some key passages from The Soul of Man under Socialism where Wilde dwells upon the issue of freedom. In this essay, Wilde explicitly affiliates his concept of freedom to “a fine thinker” who used to characterize liberty in opposition to conformity. It will be argued that the thinker Wilde alludes to is Mill. In order to support our argument, we shall, first, list textual evidences that demonstrate Wilde had already read On Liberty by the time he wrote The Soul of Man under Socialism. Then, we shall underscore the similarities between John Stuart Mill’s and Oscar Wilde’s concepts of liberty. In the end, we shall conclude that Wildean liberty is descended from Millian liberty.
KEYWORDS: Oscar Wilde. John Stuart Mill. liberty.

 

 

RESUMO
Este artigo procura diagnosticar a influência que John Stuart Mill exerceu no conceito de liberdade desenvolvido por Oscar Wilde no opúsculo The Soul of Man under Socialism. Iremos, na primeira seção, explicar a doutrina da liberdade apresentada por Mill em On Liberty. Nesta obra, Mill afirma que a liberdade se opõe à obediência cega ao costume. De acordo com Mill, os indivíduos podem tornar-se livres apenas quando criticam o costume e passam a desenvolver-se de maneira autônoma. Para Mill, a liberdade possui uma dimensão estética: ao desenvolverem-se livremente, os indivíduos transformariam suas vidas em um objeto de contemplação nobre e belo. Esta tese, apontaremos, é muita próxima do dandismo wildiano, doutrina segundo a qual a vida humana deveria tornar-se objeto de um empreendimento artístico. Na segunda seção, nosso objetivo será o de analisar algumas passagens cruciais do opúsculo The Soul of Man under Socialism em que Wilde aborda o tema da liberdade. Neste ensaio, Wilde afilia explicitamente sua concepção de liberdade a um “excelente pensador” que costumava caracterizar a liberdade em oposição ao conformismo. Nossa hipótese é de que Mill seria o pensador para o qual Wilde alude. A fim de provar nosso argumento, iremos, primeiro, elencar evidências textuais que demonstram que Wilde já tinha lido On Liberty à época em que escreveu The Soul of Man under Socialism. Em seguida, iremos destacar as similaridades entre os conceitos de liberdade de Mill e de Wilde. Ao término, nossa conclusão será a de que a liberdade wildiana descende da liberdade milliana.
PALAVRAS-CHAVE: Oscar Wilde. John Stuart Mill. liberdade.

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Referências


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