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John Stuart Mill: Defender of Oppressed Ideas, Opinions

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John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher that was very much so interested in political views and being a civil servant. His views consisted of a mixture of many philosophers in the past, yet with his own complexity that made it Mill’s. He took ideas from Locke and others including Jeremy Bentham and John Herschel. Mill’s main research went towards utilitarianism. With all of this out together, Mill’s views on liberty, rights, and freedom came the birth of his book On Liberty. Notably, Mill was also the second member of parliament to call for women’s suffrage. Mill was arguably the defender of oppressed ideas, opinions, and even groups of people. His work leads on to be something studied by many for years.

Freedom to Mill was simple, it was the freedom of speech. There are, he says, three sorts of belief: those true, those partly true, and people whole false. If an opinion is sentenced to silence, it should be one that is wholly true, to deny this opportunity would be to assume our reliableness. The suppressed opinion could, on the opposite hand, be a part containing some of the truth. In cases like this, the sole likelihood of the truth being obtained would be through the collision of adverse opinions. The silenced philosophy could, of course, be entirely false. This is the problem with censorship, there is no room to expand. When condemning an opinion, you condemn the believers as well, suppressing the group as a whole. Freedom for Mill additionally meant optimum cultivation of individuality: a person ought to be free not solely to suppose and speak as he pleases, however, conjointly to act as he pleases, subject solely to the condition that he cause no hurt to others. Individuality is the basis for the improvement of society: it is as a result of voters expressing the complete scope of their individuality that society becomes attentive to new and better practices. Individuality is, even as importantly, the premise for the expansion of every person consistent with his specific wants. this is often honest in itself. the end of man is not to act as a laborer in an exceedingly societal machine; the end of man is ‘the highest and most harmonious development of his powers’.

Mill’s first argument defending free speech and, opposing censorship, is quite easy to understand. He states that when censoring a true expression, it may deny people the opportunity to trade truth for error. This directly supports the majority of Mill’s argument. The defender of censorship can answer now and argue that we can trust censors to filtrate the true expressions from the false ones. That way, we can have censorship, while not denying everyone access to reality. Mill does not like this considering it presumes that the censor is unfailing. He says we have ample proof, and common knowledge to propose that individuals do not seem to be unerring and capable of removing the truth from the falsehood. There is no perfect way to censor. History teaches us, as citizens, this lesson. In the past, opinions and concepts were suppressed that we currently apprehend to be true or are told that they are true. After all of this has been said, Mill was not done. Yes, according to Mill everyone has the right to state their opinions, even if that opinion is suppressed. But when should one stay quiet? Simple. At least in his mind, it was. This all leads up to the ‘harm principle’. Mill believed that “…you may justifiably limit a person’s freedom of action only if they threaten harm to another”. Not only this but Mill limited a certain group of people. That certain group of people was children and people he thought to be immature or ‘barbarian’. He thought that children should be treated like children and should not be able to form their own opinions and thoughts. Why? “Liberty, as a principle, has no application to any state of things anterior to the time when mankind has become capable of being improved through free and equal discussion”.

Mill did not only state his opinions on freedom, we had also been passionate about rights. How do we as a society decide who has rights and who does not? Does the average Jane Doe have the same rights as say, the president? In fact, they do in Mill’s mind.

When it comes to hate speech there is a lot to be said. Should it be protected? Is All hate speech bad speech? In my mind specifically, it is hard to tell. Like Mill had said and even the law, if there is not a threat of violence for harm, it is protected. That should be true but in reality, hate speech will always hurt someone. There is no hate speech that is not targeted toward a certain group or person, it will always be personal. For example, following the 9/11 attacks, there was a huge anti-Islam backlash. People would gather to protest these attacks. Were they protesting the actual act, or just against the religion of Islam and Muslim people? Regardless of what one might tell you, People of Islam definitely felt the hurt and felt that is was not fair to have a prejudice for a largely followed religion, when the attack was done by one small portion of it. Another example leads to the Westboro Baptist Church. This seemingly peaceful church from Kanas claims to just be doing God’s duties and sharing His word to the people. Despite their word, their signs would include graphic pictures and very hateful words against the LGBTQ community, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and even soldiers and veterans. People felt enraged reading their heinous signs some stating things like, “Soldiers die for fag marriage” or even “God sent the shooter”. This was not just an act of aggression towards one group specifically. This was aggression against multiple groups, groups that make up a large percentage of America’s population. 

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John Stuart Mill: Defender of Oppressed Ideas, Opinions. (2022, August 01). GradesFixer. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-stuart-mill-defender-of-oppressed-ideas-opinions/
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John Stuart Mill: Defender of Oppressed Ideas, Opinions. [online]. Available at: <https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-stuart-mill-defender-of-oppressed-ideas-opinions/> [Accessed 15 Aug. 2022].
John Stuart Mill: Defender of Oppressed Ideas, Opinions [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Aug 01 [cited 2022 Aug 15]. Available from: https://gradesfixer.com/free-essay-examples/john-stuart-mill-defender-of-oppressed-ideas-opinions/
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