Mill's Theory of Liberty

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Essay on Mill's theory of Liberty Brilliant exposition of the main themes. Well done!

In outlining his theory on liberty, Mill separates his discussion into two

clearly defined areas. The first, of the liberty of thought and discussion,

deals with the freedom to articulate one's opinions, the freedom to

participate in intellectual, political, religious and general debates and

arguments, and the cognate freedom of the press. The second, of the

liberty of action, attempts to demarcate the area in which an individual is

free to act upon his will, opinions and thoughts. In both, there is a

consistent attempt by Mill to impress upon his readers the manifest

benefits that would attend an atmosphere of liberty.

To Mill, one can never be certain about the veracity or mendacity of a

certain opinion or viewpoint. Any assumption of complete certainty of the

truth or falsity of an opinion is an allusion to the infallibility of man.


addition, those who assume this, and consequently stifle an opinion,

exclude all others from hearing that opinion, thereby imposing their own

version of certainty ( as opposed to absolute certainty ) on them. Thus,

Mill writes ' We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavouring

to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil


One obvious benefit from allowing an opinion to be expressed would be

when that opinion turns out to be true. Then, the intrinsic value of that

truth is the reward of the person who allowed his own opinion to be

challenged. But, more importantly, the gain is not confined to the

individuals involved in the debate ; society as a whole benefits from the

exposure of a fallacy, and the elucidation of a truth.

Less palpable are the...