Mill Summary

Topics: Belief, Truth, Epistemology Pages: 2 (485 words) Published: April 22, 2013
Nader Mohsen Obaid
John Stewart Mill, On Liberty.
Chapter 2

In his essay "On Liberty", Mill suggests that the government shouldn't act by the appeal of the people and their wants because the public shouldn't have the authority of force over their elected governor. The government is much more unsafe when it relies on unreliable public belief. Definitely, public opinion and belief is the well-liked response of mankind, but making this opinion requires suppressing a lot of others. This error of minority opinions is very upsetting to the public whether the opinions are right or not. If a suppressed opinion is right, of course the public will not be seeing the truth. However, if the suppressed opinion is wrong, the danger in its loss is often more vital. If a minority opinion can be wrong, it leads to "the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth." The opinion of the majority does not have to be correct, it can be wrong or biased. As for the majority, it has no true authority and no absolute certainty for it to have guaranteed opinions. The imperfection of majority opinions is shown by examples through looking at past history, according to Mill. Past popular opinion has often been rejected by today's society, and there is no agreement or assurance that present popular opinion may not also be discarded by the future societies. Individuals can only form the most intelligent, educated opinions that they are capable of, but they shouldn't force those opinions on the whole of society unless they are sure of their truth. Mill believes that in order to make good decisions, men must go through debate, understanding and knowledge. Fair men keep their mind open and accept all new ideas and search for contrasting arguments for comparing and contrasting between ideas, realizing how important it is to have a devil's advocate in a discussion. To Mill, a fact must be held up to discussion or "it will be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.". He believes...
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