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“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill


In his work, an English philosopher John Stuart Mill (1869), emphasizes the importance of individuality within any public system. Chapters II and III of his book became the parts of the collection of short essays that were edited by Roca and Schuh (2015). The chapters focus upon the role of public opinion in society and its influence on personal decisions. The author argues that every person has a right to his/her own opinion. According to him, the surrounding society is never allowed to interfere with personal assumptions. Besides, John Mill outlines the boundaries of the right to freedom of expression and lists the cases in which personal opinions can threaten society (Roca & Schuh, 2015). Therefore, the work serves as a crucial contribution to the philosophy of public speaking.

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The Truth of “The World”: Who Rules Individual Opinions?

Individual opinions are the truth that the surrounding society communicates. The world is constantly trying to impose stable meanings and notions upon various things. Thus, it never allows people to contradict these meanings, while they are universally considered to be true. It is crucial to determine who represents “the world” that creates a public opinion. Due to Mill (2015), “the world, to each individual, means the part of it with which he comes in contact: his party, his sect, his church, his class of society” (p. 441). Therefore, the author implies that personal opinions usually stand in subordination to those ideas that are adopted by the surrounding society.

Liberty of Contradicting as a Justification for Assuming the Truth of Opinion

One should differentiate between the purposes of assuming the separate opinions to be true. According to the author, it is unacceptable to presume that the idea is true only for not allowing its rebuttal. Thus, the only condition, under which one can claim that the opinion is true, is providing the space for the refuting of this opinion (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p.442).

Generally-Held Opinions as “Dead Dogmas”

Due to the author’s opinion, even the most reliable and true-to-life ideas have to be verified on the matter of authenticity. Thus, before claiming that the opinion is true, one is supposed to consider the ideas and arguments that contradict it. “The whole state and value of human judgment, depending on the one property, that it can be set right when it is wrong, reliance can be placed on it only when the means of setting it right are kept constantly at hand”, points out Mill (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 443). Consequently, the opinions that are said to be correct, due to some personal preferences or facts, without being questioned or doubted can not be considered living truths, while they become “dead dogmas” instead.

The Manner of Expressing Opinions

There is a common belief that the ideas that are transmitted in an intemperate manner should be discarded and prohibited. Moreover, such ideas are considered to be false. However, the statement is arguable, while often people who try to rebut the opinion, are accomplishing it in a fierce and attacking way, which may seem intemperate. It, however, does not mean that their point is not true. Moreover, sometimes a temperate expression is chosen by a speaker to communicate false ideas (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 448).

Legal Restrictions of Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is not absolute. One should be aware of the fact that there are boundaries that determine the legitimacy of speech. Consequently, if the opinion promotes any encouragement for the accomplishment of some illegal or destructive act, society is supposed to restrict or discard it (Roca & Schuh, 2015, p. 450).

Conclusion: Freedom of Opinion and its Significance

The work provides an overview of the major principles of interrelations between personal opinions and generally-held truths. The author of the work illustrates how freedom of speech should be realized. Finally, the work helps the readers to realize that freedom of opinion is a crucial prerequisite of cognition in the modern world.

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Mill, J. (1869). On liberty. London: Longmans, Roberts, Green, Reader & Dyer.

Roca, O., & Schuh, M. (2015). An examined life: Critical thinking and ethics. Hialeah, Florida: McGraw-Hill Education.

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"“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill." StudyCorgi, 30 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill." December 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill." December 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill." December 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“On Liberty” by John Stuart Mill'. 30 December.

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