Oct 6 - Liberty Part 1 Summary

Oct 6 - Liberty Part 1 Summary - out for themselves and...

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1 Summary of Politics 1020E Lecture 9: Liberty, Part One (October 6, 2011) The ninth lecture begins our investigation of liberty or freedom. We now shift our focus onto the key ideas of John Stuart Mill as found in his 1859 work, On Liberty. Mill claims that power can be used over someone only to prevent them from harming other people. He gives a sketch of the stages of development of liberty, from the need for protection against government to the struggle for democracy to the 19 th century recognition that democratic majorities can themselves by tyrannical. Both the state and society more generally should be restrained from taking for themselves too much power over individuals. Mill seeks a principled answer to the question of when (and why) it is legitimate to interfere in people’s lives. Paternalism is the view that we may coerce people for their own good. Mill is against paternalism. He says it is not suitable for mature adults in civilized societies. Even if individuals are mistaken, they need to find that
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Unformatted text preview: out for themselves and make their own mistakes. Liberty of thought and discussion is a prime example of Mill’s overall defence. According to Mill, there should be complete freedom of thought and discussion. We can’t justifiably censor views we judge to be false, since many certainties have (in the past) turned out to be mistaken. So censorship without testing assumes infallibility, and we are not infallible. What about harmful views? Mill says that the only basis we have for thinking a view is harmful is to see how it fares in public. The only basis for testing a view is open discussion. False views should be allowed because they might turn out to be true. And responding to falsehoods gives us an opportunity to rethink our positions and to hold our truths as ‘living truths’ rather than as ‘dead dogmas’. Censorship is illegitimate, but there are occasions in which the expression of an opinion can be restricted as a way of avoiding harm or violence....
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