John Stuart Mill The Limits Of Freedom

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The limits of freedom of expression in connection with Charlie Hebdo Liberté, égalité, fraternité, (translated; liberty, equality, and fraternity) is the proud motto of the French and the fundament of a great nation. But are these three values cohesive and equally represented in European democracies? After the shootings on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, an intense debate about the limitation of freedom of speech has arisen. Based on the English philosopher John S. Mill’s theory of freedom of expression, this essay will show why the freedom of speech should be controlled. This essay is composed upon the belief that there should be a limit to what is allowed to be expressed when it is on the expense of others, both physically and…show more content…
Early in his essay (Mill, 1863:22-23) Mill emphasizes the difference between a harmful act and an offensive act, where the offensive act not necessarily constitutes harm, and, therefore, no law or governmental involvement is justified to step in. But in this argument Mill seems to contradict himself as he, a few passages further ahead (Mill, 1863:28), mentions that some acts, while being harmless in private sphere, still need to be prohibited in the public sphere. This comes to show how Mills vagueness results in him contradicting himself, and this makes up the main problem with the Harm Principle. Besides that, one might say that the Harm Principle is too broad and too narrow all at the same time. Firstly it is too broad, as the word “Harm” is not defined, and can have a subjective connotation in the society, according to who you ask. Mill does not go into details about who decides what is categorized as harm, and who regulates the observance. Simultaneously, the limits on free speech will be very narrow because it is difficult to support the claim that most speech causes direct harm to the rights of…show more content…
We live in the world where cultures co-exist side by side, and cultural, social and political diversity have become crucial factors in the democracy. To allow a blossoming pluralism in our society, there must be a perceptive mutual respect for one another and our values and beliefs. Therefore it can be necessary to limit some parts of freedom of expression, most importantly hate speech, in order for the society to progress and embrace the diversity. In connection with expressing an opinion, one must be aware of the intention of the spoken. Why is this being expressed, and what can be gained from a potential discussion? Mill would answer these questions with the theory of epistemology and obtaining further knowledge, but in many contemporary cases, unfortunately, opinions are expressed recklessly, with no real aim in progression or further knowledge. In the case of Charlie Hebdo and the drawing of the Holy Prophet Muhammed, the long prevailed attitude of Islamophobia was clearly expressed. Who could possibly benefit from drawing a holy figure with a bomb in his turban? What further knowledge and discussion can be obtained from this hate speech? If there in any case, which I strongly doubt, was gained the tiniest bit of knowledge, I still believe that it is not justified, as that "learning-process" from hate speech resulted in people suffering
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