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Was J.S.Mill Right to Claim that Suppressing an Opinion is 'Robbing Mankind'

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Introduction

Was J.S.Mill Right to Claim that Suppressing an Opinion is 'Robbing Mankind' John Stuart Mill asserted that by suppression of any opinion that mankind was being 'robbed'. He based this claim upon several different reasons. The first was that when you suppress an opinion you are assuming that you are infallible which Mill claims is a very dangerous position to hold, Mill says that when an opinion is compelled to silence it may well be correct and so suppression of said opinion denies people of the opportunity to correct their own beliefs. Another reason put forward is that even if the opinion silenced is incorrect almost all opinions contain some portion of truth within them, and the only way to truly progress one's opinion towards overall truth is to take the different sections of truth from other opinions and use them to improve your own. Thus even an incorrect opinion can be highly useful and should not be silenced. Thirdly Mill pointed out that even if the prevailing opinion were completely correct when an opinion goes unchallenged and simply is accepted ...read more.

Middle

Nietzsche asserted that instead the search for 'truth' is to find the set of assertions which is most 'life preserving' or 'life enhancing' and that the ultimate external 'truth' of a statement only matters if it is involved through one of these points. If this is in fact the case then both first and second assertions are untenable because they both rely on truth being the overall aim, rather than whatever works best. However Mill would not agree with this assertion as he would argue that through utilitarianism a large part of the ultimate 'use' of an opinion is its truth and so to him even if Nietzsche's claim is the best way of searching for an opinion the truth of said opinion is a vital part within this. There are also more general arguments against Mill's assertion of absolute free speech and revulsion to its denial. Can absolute free speech always be a good idea? There are statistics to show that, for example, there is a noticeable rise in racially motivated attacks when a BNP seat is held in a constituency. ...read more.

Conclusion

However it could be argued that these protestors destabilise the country and could potentially disrupt it enough that it fell into insurgency. From this point of view, extolled by the Chinese government, the act of the suppression of the opinion is for the greater good as it helps to keep the country stable and the citizens safe. Even if this causes them to be unhappy about the state of things it can be asserted that this is better because they are at least protected. In this case they are not being 'robbed' by having their opinion suppressed because it is being supplanted by something deemed to be more important and incompatible with the opinion. In conclusion Mill's argument that suppressing an opinion is robbing mankind appears to be fairly stable however not necessarily exactly as he first put it forwards. For example Nietzsche's view that the best opinion is one that is most beneficial rather than necessarily true, appears to be a better blueprint for the search of opinions than an external 'truth'. However once this change to the semantics of Mill's initial assertion the argument looks to be a solid one. ...read more.

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