On libery

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Presentation : On liberty, John Stuart Mill

Summary :

This text is an extract from the essay On liberty, published in 1859 and written by the English philosopher John Stuart Mill. On Libertycontains a rational justification of the freedom of the individual in opposition to the claims of the state to impose unlimited control, and has become a classic of libertarian philosophy. In thispassage from chapter two entitled Of liberty of Thought and Discussion the author exposes his conception of debate.

In the first part of the text the author sums up three main reasons why liberty ofopinion and freedom of expression are essential if you want to discover the truth :

- First, when you stop someone from expressing himself you might miss an opportunity to learn a truth
-Secondly, even if that opinion is partly wrong, it is necessary to confront it with your own beliefs
- Thirdly, if this opinion is actually true, you have to discus it if you want to be able to understandit.

In the second part of the text, John Start Mill gives his opinion concerning the way people express themselves. He starts from the postulate that it is impossible to define what a loyalargument is. But beyond this fact, the author contends that it is very difficult to demonstrate that an opinion is not expressed properly. Indeed the large use of sophism illustrates this trouble. ThenMill denounces the existence of double standards in the way people judge an argument. In fact he notices that unfair ways of expressing are very often pointed out in the unprevailing opinion, and not andthe opinion of the majority. This argument explains why dissident opinions have to be exposed in a very modest way and why people who have different stances find it hard to make them heard.Commentary :

1) A lesson of tolerance in order to learn the truth

To my mind Mill’s argument about human fallibility is significant. In fact, because of this argument, he contends that issues...