Download e-book for iPad: J.S. Mill, On liberty in focus by John Gray

By John Gray

This quantity brings jointly J.S. turbines On Liberty and a variety of significant essays through such eminent students as Isaiah Berlin, Alan Ryan, John Rees, C.L. Ten and Richard Wollheim. in addition to offering authoritative statement upon On Liberty, the essays mirror a broader debate concerning the philosophical foundations of Mill's liberalism, relatively the query of the relationship betweenMill's professed utilitarianism and his dedication to person liberty. brought and edited via John grey and G.W. Smith, the booklet may be of curiosity to scholars of Mill, to moral and political philosophers and to an individual drawn to the modern prestige of liberalism.

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Extra resources for J.S. Mill, On liberty in focus

Sample text

In a case of such necessity, and so directly 41 JOHN STUART MILL in the line of their duty, something less than infallibility may, it is maintained, warrant, and even bind, governments, to act on their own opinion, confirmed by the general opinion of mankind. It is also often argued, and still oftener thought, that none but bad men would desire to weaken these salutary beliefs; and there can be nothing wrong, it is thought, in restraining bad men, and prohibiting what only such men would wish to practise.

There is no such thing as absolute certainty, but there is assurance sufficient for the purposes of human life. We may, and must, assume our opinion to be true for the guidance of our own conduct: and it is assuming no more when we forbid bad men to pervert society by the propagation of opinions which we regard as false and pernicious. I answer, that it is assuming very much more. There is the greatest difference between presuming an opinion to be true, because, with every opportunity for contesting it, it has not been refuted, and assuming its truth for the purpose of not permitting its refutation.

The best government has no more title to it than the worst. It is as noxious, or more noxious, when exerted in accordance with public opinion, than when in opposition to it. If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. Were an opinion a personal possession of no value except to the owner; if to be obstructed in the enjoyment of it were simply a private injury, it would make some difference whether the injury was inflicted only on a few persons or on many.

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