An Analysis Of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty

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John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was an English philosopher who had a huge influence over 19th century ethical and political thinking. Mill was a strong advocate for Utilitarianism; a moral theory that aimed to create “the greatest happiness for the greatest number”. In 1859, Mill published his book, “On Liberty” which expressed his conception of individual autonomy and advocated a democracy that respresents all people. This essay will illustrate the premises present in chapter two of “On Liberty” in which Mill argues for inclusive freedom of speech and demonstrates the legitimacy of doing so. Mill begins by arguing that it is illogical to give authority of voice to one person or group over another because human beings are equally fallible. Moreover, if an opinion is held by only a single individual or public minority it is not necessarily incorrect. For example, in the past a large majority of the American population believed that slavery was an acceptable practice, and the minority who disagreed were condemened as erroneous in their reasoning. Yet today, slavery is condemned worldwide as being completely wrong and inhumane in all circumstances. This supports Mill’s assertion that it is wrong to silence any person’s voice, no matter how insignificant it may appear to be at the time. The argument continues by explaining that opposing opinions are needed in order to fully comprehend the truth. By addressing and then eradicating the conflicting arguments, we are better qualified
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