What is the best argument for freedom of speech?

Essay by author_tm July 2009

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Freedom of speech and the liberty to uphold one’s expression has long been the subject of many debates. It has taken centuries if not years for mankind to come to a point where many can easily voice their opinions without having to ponder over the consequences. But one should always know where to draw the line. Freedom of expression also needs to have its limits. Two of the masterminds who put forth their work on liberty and freedom of speech were John Stuart Mill and Jean-Jacque Rousseau. The concepts penned by Rousseau contradict those that were constructed by Mil; while the former focused on the functioning of the society as a whole, the latter advocated the rights of the individual to his freedom.

Mill basically argument in his piece ‘On Liberty’ allows for Utilitarian approach. His main idea was to give society and human nature a complete independence to mature and expand in infinite ways and direction.

The main idea revolved around the kind of power that can be placed upon the individual by the society, and how that power was wrong unless exercised in self-defense. In particular, minorities were often the ones being oppressed. Mill pointed out that this tyrannical behavior was being supported by the major thinkers of that day. Public opinion followed the opinion of these thinkers and hence ended up doing the same. ‘On Liberty’ sought to diminish the power the society had over an individual’s freedom by giving that individual the freedom of speech. It was identified through the works that most people had precedent and preference which further provoked dissent and thus pressurized people. Mill also noted that there was no way of judging people on their interference into another person’s private affairs.

Mill’s idea of complete and total independence from society is contradicted...