08.31.2018: One Chapter of Nonfiction


Today's soundtrack is Xasthur: To Violate the Obvious.


This morning, I'm reading the first part of the second chapter of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, "Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion."


We know that having a free press is one of the ways that we can protect ourselves from a "corrupt or tyrannical government" (p. 27); neither should the government have the power to silence the free press, nor should the common man have a right to silence it, even if taken to a majority vote. For silencing an opinion robs posterity: those who agree with the silenced opinion lose out, but those who disagree with the opinion lose more; preserving the things that we disagree with allows us to solidify the arguments that we have for what we do believe. If we silence all those who disagree, we end up in an echo chamber. We must also consider the fact that we cannot be 100% sure that we are right in our own opinions. So there are really two reasons to allow others' opinions to be heard: "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 still[, for all] silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility" (p. 29).


There are a few ways that man can misunderstand infallibility. If he is in a position of power and is never corrected, he may believe himself to be infallible. If he is in constant deference to the beliefs of others, he will hold others to be infallible - perhaps he believes his employer or his priest to be always right in every opinion, or perhaps that people who are elderly must always be correct, etc. But we must recognize that nobody is infallible.



#JohnStuartMill #Xasthur