Thought and Discussion: On Liberty of Thoughts and Discussion
By: Pamela Noble
For: Professor Brad Bell
Ethics and Media, The Arts and Society
August 11, 2013
Thoughts and Discussion: On the Liberty of Thought and Discussion Abstract
In the second chapter of John Stuart Mill’s essay, On Liberty, Mill presents reasons why he believes silencing people's opinions, even if there is only one person with a particular opinion, impedes the ability of people to make truly informed decisions. Mill’s argument, however, assumes that the goal is always the search for truth and, thus, necessitates the need for liberty of thought and discussion. Consequently, in this second chapter, Mill expounds upon his belief in the autonomy of the individual in the development of opinion and quest for truth. Mill also reiterates his belief in the autonomy of government and refutes the idea that government should adhere to popular opinion. Furthermore, Mill emphasizes the point that government should never prohibit victimless free expression, even if popular public opinion deems it necessary. Thus, in the ongoing search for truth, Mill encourages the notion that liberty in thought and discussion of all peoples is vital because the majority opinion is not guaranteed to be correct. Mill (1869), in On Liberty and Discussion, argues that freedom of thought and speech are essential in keeping the majority from silencing the minority because "we can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion." Consequently, since majority opinion can be wrong for such has no true authority and no absolute certainty, Mill further asserts that government should not act at the beckon call of the majority. In addition, whether the majority opinion is right or wrong, Mill believes that the public should not have the power of coercion over their elected governing body. He argues that the government is much more ineffective and even counter-effective...
References: Mill, John Stuart. 1869. On Liberty of Thought and Discussion. In On Liberty (chapter II).
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