Mill freedom of thought and discussion

Outline of the 4 main arguments mill puts forward in chapter 2

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  • Created by: Megan
  • Created on: 21-06-11 13:56

The infallibility argument

In this argument he says that when people suppress someones view, they presume they themselves are infailliable (unable to be wrong). People are not infalliable and by suppressing the views of others they may be suppressing the truth.

He gives examples such as Socrates who was executed by his country for his views and questioning their religion and this, according to Mill, is a lost oppourtunity to hear the truth. 

He also gives the example of Emperor Marcus Aurelius; he was very intelligent and moral but even he was not infallible, yet he restricted peoples religious freedom. 

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The Partly True Argument

In this argument he says that in debates neither side normally has the whole truth in what they believe/say; therefore the discussion is needed to find which parts of the arguments that are held are true. 

Mill gives the example of politics. In politics, no one party normally wholey correct; therefore discussion and combination is needed to find the truth and what is best for the citizens.  

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The Dead Dogma Argument

In this argument Mill claims that you need to thinks about both sides of an argument before you can be certain of your own view. It is better to have living truths than dead dogmas. 

Dead dogmas are beliefs which people hold without any actual knowledge about why you hold that belief

Mill gives the example of Cicero who always looked at his opponents argument before deciding upon his own argument

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The Link With Action Argument

Mill argues here that you are much more likely to act uoin your views if you know why they are true. When people argue against a belief that you hold you then have to think it through to defend it. 

Many people believe in a view just because the people around them do. 

Mill gives the example of christianity; many believe it up to the point of doing, they hold dead dogmas as they don't act upon the belief and can give no explanation to why they believe it. 

Use of negative logic and playing devils advocate- pointing out problems in your own beliefs allows you to discover positive truths

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It is very important to have freedom of thought and discussion asit develops our faculty of reason and exercises our mind.

Mill is highly focused on truth but is truth always a good thing? 

Discovering the world was round was good but discovering things such as nuclear weapons are not.

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Corn dealer example

When talking about the importance of freedom of thought and discussion with the harm to others principle; mill uses the example of the cord dealer to show how context is key.

Context is important with thought and discussion to prevent it conflicting with the HTOP as if the corn dealer was an extortionist; it is OK to write a letter to a newspaper about it but it is not OK to go to the corn dealers house and say it or do anything that may incite harm.Mill argued that without freedom society wont progress and that is why the protection of freedom of thought and discussion is important. He gives examples that 2 men may be rejected from jury duty for 'honestly declaring' that they had no theological beliefs.

Being punished for thought and discussion is still relevent in the 21st century with issues such as party unity, political correctness, and the reaction to the BNP being on question time. Can be defended from an angle of negative freedom in that people should be free form interference and therefore able to have free thought and discussion. And also a utilitarian perspective that allowing this freedom will lead to great happiness

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