Today's soundtrack is The Tiger Lillies: Bad Blood + Blasphemy, a very odd album with its own unusual charm.
This afternoon, as I sit on the couch with a heating pad on my neck which seized up this morning after I stretched, making me feel much older than I actually am, I am reading the next part of the second chapter of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, "Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion." You can find my notes from August 31 on the first part of this chapter here.
The only way that we can judge someone to be of reliable opinion is if he has proven himself open to correction when his judgement is wrong. Opposing views, rather than being an obstacle to him, is a welcome part of his development of wisdom. He considers all sides of a thing, not picking only one and digging in his heels when faced with criticism. Only by being willing and able to address contrary views on a subject can any man consider himself an authority on that subject.
We protect certain topics from debate, arguing that they are so settled that they need not be debated. Well, if our stances on these topics are so certain, opposing viewpoints will be easily quashed in a debate, won't they? So we should not say that certain topics are protected from discussion, for it is not our place to make a decision for others about what information they can have access to. If a man wishes to decide for himself that he believes in God, and he is so certain of the existence of God that he will not allow any contrary opinion into his mind, that is his right; however, he does not have the right to tell any other man that the other man is not allowed to debate the existence of God with a neighbour.
There are some who argue that attempting to sut down a new idea can be good for the cause of truth, as if it is true, its followers will persevere through the persecution; however, Mill says that this is not a good litmus test for truth, because men can be more passionate about an error than they are about the truth.