The relationship between truth and the good for Mill

The relationship between truth and the good for Mill

On liberty by Mill was published in 1859 and his principal aim was to ensure that personal liberty was not consumed in the drive towards popular sovereignty. Through the emergence of the United States as a democratic nation led Mill into making a conclusion that phrases such as self-government and the power vested in people over themselves do not fully express the truth about the whole case (Mill, 1859). The people who exercise authority are often not the same people with whom this authority is exercised and thus the self-government, in this case, is not the government for an individual but rather a government for the rest of the people. Mill acknowledges the need to protect a person’ liberty from that of the tyranny of the majority as it has a great influence on the overall liberty. Mills work in this book is highly influential as it involves defending freedom of speech for people as a way of determining the actual truth that is being protected from falsehood which is the same as protecting the likelihood of one ever knowing the truth. Mill, therefore, seeks to explore the actual meaning of liberty of individuals and the responsibility of one’s personal moral growth.

According to Mill, goodness is solely about utility. He thus argues that denying that there are moral truths is the same as claiming that there are no facts in regards to whether an action adds up to the general happiness or it does not. Mill argues that freedom of speech will allow people to discover the truth better than while having the selective censorship. Thus he asserts that if people took time to speak and to listen to each other respectfully, then there might be truth in it. However, this is not the case in our societies as the exchange of ideas in our societies is different from that given by Mills (Mill, 1859). People including great thinkers get things wrongly but with time these wrongs have achieved the large levels of rational opinions and conduct as time allows false opinions to give a path to true ones. Society can and does execute its own mandates: and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right or any other mandate at all things” (Mill, 1859). However, if society represses the expression of dissenting opinions, most people will tend to become more cautious both in expressing themselves and in their thoughts as well hence resulting in the common good. Many of the good and true ideas often start by being contrary to accepted belief.

True beliefs are generally suppressed since they are thought to be false though they are actually true. Therefore for one to assume that a view is false and hence it should be censored is the same as assuming the infallibility of an individual’s belief. Human beings are, however, creatures that are incapable of infallible knowledge.  Mill’s empiricism, therefore, leads him into believing that humans do not have insights into the truth and that all of the human’s beliefs must remain open for revision in relation to further observation. Therefore, discussions even those that are thought to be securely established ought to remain open. Mills asserts that some of the truths ought to be suppressed despite being true since they are thought to cause harm (Mill, 2013).

According to chapter 5 in the book on liberty by Mills, he asserts that people are not accountable for the conduct that affects only them. A person, therefore, should be answerable for any form of misconduct that harms others and in such incidences, the society is held responsible for punishing the misconducts of their members. However, throughout the book, Mill asserts that silence is at times important in concealing the truth as sometimes the truth may cause harm to others, “If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth produced by its collision with error” (Mill, 1859).

These types of actions may cause harm to others but they may ultimately bring a larger advantage to the society. Freedom, as evidenced in Mill’s argument, indicates that liberty is all about freeing an individual from coercion by the state or rather from any form of social pressure. Therefore protection against the tyranny of the majority is not enough and thus there is a need for people to be protected from the tyranny of the prevailing ideas and feelings against the trend of the society to induce by other methods than civil penalties, its own opinions, and practices as the rule of morality on those who oppose them (Mill, 2013).

The liberty of the individuals must be restricted so as to enhance goodness amongst people. However, if a person refrains from interfering with others in what concerns them and if he simply acts in accordance to his own liking and judgment in the things that concern him, then in the same manner opinions ought to be free. Therefore, a person ought to be allowed to carry out his or her own opinions at liberty but at his or her own cost. Humans are not infallible meaning that their truths in most of the time are only half-truths. He asserts that it is not desirable that there is no unity of opinion unless if it results from having a complete and free comparison of the opposite opinions. Mills argue that the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race”, having diverse opinions is not evil but rather a good thing until people are able to acknowledge all sides of truth and this is applied in the mode of human’s actions which is not less than that of their opinions (Mill, 1859).

Self-protection is the only reason as to why mankind is warranted either individually or rather collectively in getting in the way of the freedom of action whether good or bad by any of the individuals. Mill argues that the only purpose for which authority can be rightfully implemented over any of their membership within the civilized society against his will is when the society wants to prevent harm to other people. A person own good and morality does not guarantee a warrant and thus he cannot rightfully be obliged to do something since it will be good for him and it will make him happy as in the opinion of other people, to do that will be the wisest decision to make or the right thing to do.

















Mill, J. S., & Industrial Systems Research,. (2013). On liberty: A translation into modern English.

Mill, S. J. (1859). On Liberty. Parker.


1132 Words  4 Pages

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