J.S. Mill’s famous essay On Liberty proposes a broadly Utilitarian principle to be applied for the purpose of the preservation of individual liberty against state coercion. This principle is known as the ‘harm principle’. Mill provides three vaguely distinct formulations of the principle, and in each one, the term ‘harm’ takes on a slightly different meaning. The first formulation implies a definition of harm as an act which would require either individual or collective ‘self-protection’ as a response.
In Aeschylus' play Oresteia, Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter as an offering to the primitive (pre-classical) gods of nature and war, meant to insure sea passage and victory in an upcoming battle. In doing so, he sets in motion a cascade of blood vengeance that echoes the historical practice of pre-classical Greek retaliatory clan justice. On Agamemnon’s return home, Clytemnestra cuts his throat in his bath. On the discovery of this horror, Orestes then, on prompting from his sister Elektra, murders his mother Clytemnestra.
In his famous Paris Manuscripts of 1844, Marx argues that a society organized around the principle of private property and the commercial production of commodities forces man to stand in opposition to his own nature in order to subsist, and that this self-oppositional stance is best described as ‘alienated’ (or ‘estranged’) labor. To fully understand what Marx means by ‘alienated labor’, and under what circumstances labor becomes alienated, we must therefore first understand what Marx means by ‘human nature’.