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Mill's Freedom Of Expression Essay

1305 words - 6 pages

John Stuart Mill’s on Liberty argues the connection between liberty and utility. According to Mill, a man must be free to pursue his own goals and express himself as an individual without any repercussion from the society as long as his action will benefit the society. He asserted that we should pursue the higher pleasure such as reading poems and joining an intellectual debate, which will bring higher utility (happiness), compared to the lower pleasure such as drinking and gambling, which will bring lower utility. He is concern on individual freedom of expression, thinking that such libertarian ideal in a person that had brought to the Enlightenment of Europe is disappearing within society ...view middle of the document...

According to him, public opinion can hurt some individuals by refraining them from pursuing their goals. He added that imposing certain belief to others is motivated by self-interest. He argues that a belief is only a preference unless it is open to debate which I will discuss further. Thus, he seeks protection for people against imposing values from the society. However, Mill acknowledges that men can be warranted by the society under self-protection. It is the basis of harm principle where authorities can legally charge an individual against his free will if his action is endangering others. For example, a drunken person should not be allowed to drive a car because he might crash other street users. This is the limit of Mill’s freedom of expression. Because the individual is a part of the society, individual freedom of expression needs restriction for the society to progress and achieve a high moral standard. Therefore, a civilized society must restrict its action within the boundary of the harm principle.
In defending liberty, Mill gave four arguments in respond to some critics about freedom of expression. First, Mill asserted that there must be a liberty to disprove any opinions. He contends that human must correct mistakes only through experience and discussion instead of judgment. Thus, opinions, ideas, and beliefs should be debatable.
Second, Mills argues that while government should not enforce certain values on people while individual should make their own opinions on certain issues. He stresses that men are responsible for their own action. Only through open discussion on any issues can we find our belief. His example on the death of Jesus Christ is an illustration of when society acted hastily because the society is not open to Christ radical teaching at that time. Thus, he mentions that our religious and moral conviction is not a source for legitimacy in punishing contradictory opinions.
Third, Mill rejected the idea of prosecuting ideas. He argues that if ideas are not debated, then we will lose its meaning and practicality to improve humanity. The same goes to persecuting individuals with ideas. Ideas are the motivator of the world. Mill argues that it takes centuries for truth to reemerge after it is persecuted. Think of Galileo Galilei’s theory on the Sun as the center of the solar system that was considered blasphemous by the Catholic Church in the 17th century, but is now considered as truth. He stressed that truth is larger than any authority and that freedom of expression will constantly spawn new ideas to be debated.
Lastly, Mill challenges the notion that dissenter can still express their opinion since capital punishment is no longer available. He replies that any kind of persecutions reduce the morale of an individual to contribute to the society. People will hide their views and this hampered the process of human improvement. Instead, diversity of opinion keeps a reasonable debate of a popular opinion according to...

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