John Stuart Mill's Stance Against Censorship

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The line between being able to punish those who use hate speech and those who exercise their right to free speech is a hard one to define. In this essay, Mill’s, opinion, arguments against him, limitations, and assumptions. Mill states three main arguments and their criticisms, this will help defend Mill’s choice against censorship. The ideals about censorship and truth are valuable; we should authorize people to arrive at true beliefs about the world. Freedom of speech allows people to arrive at a clear understanding of truths about the world and opposed the silencing or censorship of expression which can prevent people from accomplishing at a clear and lively understanding of true beliefs about the world. Therefore, we should promote freedom of speech and stop the silencing or censorship of expression to fully let people become autonomous. As the question that this essay goes to answer, what right to we have to censor one against the majority, as one has no right to censor the majority. Free speech should not be censored

The first point that Mill argues, surrounds if the opinion being referred to is true. Mill believes that censorship is not right in this case. If the opinion is presumed to be true and it is censored, then people will be denied the opportunity to learn the true information (Mill p14). Mill states that humans have absolutely no authority to decide what information should and should not be censored for anyone. There is supporting facts that people have some responsibility to act on their ideals. Mill also states that truth may be debated by false information and can be justifiably persecuted to find the most truth. No true opinion that has the facts to endure some debate will ever be extinguished. Meaning that if the truth is the truth, it will always be around for people to comprehend. Some criticisms of Mills work say that we need censorship so that only the truest truth can be shown, so people don't have to debate conflicting opinions and figure out what may be true and what may be false. Mill argues this by stating that if we have censorship then we are denying people the truth, even if what is being censored is false. The question this essay is set out to answer is if we have any power to silence the minority, the same way it is impossible to silence the majority. The point of not being able to silence the true opinions goes how it is impossible to silence the majority.

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The second argument that Mill forms is regarding if the opinion is false. If we censor false opinions, then our beliefs become stagnant. When the truth is not questioned then dead dogmas are created and living truths are not seen and we will not have a clear understanding of what it means to be fact or fiction because all that will be known is what we as a population are told (Mill p29). People may argue for censorship of false opinions under the rationale of the proof itself is all we need. Mill debates this criticism by saying mathematical truths may be the only ways this can be seen since most truths in other educational disciplines are always progressing. Mill states people should be taught the grounds for their opinion. When different opinions are possible, understanding the truth requires dispelling. Critiques include it is not necessary for mankind to be familiar with potential objections to their beliefs. This supports Mills' preference about anticensorship. The question this essay faces to answer is doing the majority have the power to censor one minority the same way one minority have the power to censor the majority. The result that has been found through reading On Liberty that we have no power so silence the opinion of the minority (or the wrong opinion) through John Stuart Mills opinions.

The third and final argument that Mill forms regards if the opinion is partially true and partially false. It is states that free speech is still necessary, no matter what the opinion is. To do otherwise and censor ones assumptions, it would deprive the population of the partial truth and engaging with the partial truth and partial lie will help with the understanding. Freedom of speech is the lesser of two evils. Some people argue that when conflicting half truths are shown, then the citizens of society will be confused and unsure what to believe. Mill refutes that this will only be true for certain ideologues and is the lesser of two evils; there is more hope and less chance of prejudice if people are made to listen to both sides. “Some received principles, especially on the highest and most vital subjects, are more then half-truths. The Christian morality, for instance, is the whole truth that subject and if any one teaches a morality which varies form it, he is wholly in error” (Mill p40). If a true opinion is not debated the meaning of the opinion may be lost, this is essential for “true knowledge” for some people to hold erroneous opinions.

There is the possibility that prioritizing the value of truth undermines these values, on at least some occasions. There is a fear that allowing any and every opinion to be expressed may have a negative impact on peoples well being and inclusiveness. Mill has the philosophical ideals of utilitarianism and did work about whether truth was comparable with the principle of utility. There is the possibility that there is no such thing as the truth in moral and political debates. There is only back and forth of opinion. Mill believes that there are some truths in mortal and political life and that the only way we can ensure we have our own fallibility and prejudice is to engage with conflicting opinion. Some people argue that the ideal of free speech to entail “viewpoint neutrality” when it comes to regulation of speech. This means all views are to be treated equally and all worthy of debate and consideration. It is not possible to be completely viewpoint neutral.

As a society, censoring some views if it is done purposefully or not, by inviting one speaker and not inviting another, it is inevitable. Even if we agree with Mill on the value of free speech there is some need for content-neutral rules to ensure that speech has its beneficial effects. If you organize a debate, everyone just shouts and doesn’t listen to the other's point of view. Mill is a free speech absolutist and indeed the free speech absolutism does not make much sense. Mill thought that speech that directly incited violence to others should be prevented and many self labelled absolutists accept similar restrictions. They argue that fraudulent speech or speech that amounts to common assault. In conclusion, according to Mill there should be no censorship, regardless if the opinion is right, wrong or a half-truth.

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John Stuart Mill’s Stance Against Censorship. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/john-stuart-mills-stance-against-censorship/> [Accessed 18 Jun. 2024].
John Stuart Mill’s Stance Against Censorship [Internet]. WritingBros. 2020 Oct 08 [cited 2024 Jun 18]. Available from: https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/john-stuart-mills-stance-against-censorship/
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