Philosophy Reflection -- J.S. Mill
On Liberty, Chapter 2, Part 2
After spending the latter of the second section of his essay explaining how popular opinions run the risk of being false, Mill further goes on to make three independent arguments in favor of an established freedom of opinion.
He boldly asserts that even if the popular opinion is true, if it is not debated it will become "dead dogma," or a series of beliefs taken to be true simply out of establishment. He lends credence to this argument with the observation that if truth is simply held as a prejudice, then people will not fully understand it, and will not understand how to refute objections to it. Therefore, dissent, and revolution, even if it is false and unjustly founded, keeps alive the truth against which it dissents.
With such established, Mill uses the remainder of this portion of the essay to address to two rather large and very potential criticisms of his argument.
First, it could be claimed that people should be taught with the foundations for their opinions in mind, and that having been taught these grounds, they can rise above a simple learner, avoiding mere prejudices and instead really understanding the basis of their own opinions. Mill replies that in cases where differing opinions are possible, “understanding the truth requires dispelling arguments to the contrary.” Basically, if a person cannot refute objections to his beliefs, then he cannot properly be said to understand his own opinion. Additionally, it is important that this hypothetical individual must hear such objections from people who actually believe in them, because it is only these people who can truly and honestly support said arguments. Responding to objections is so important that if no dissenters exist, it is necessary to imagine them, and to come up with the most persuasive arguments that they could make. It is in this way that Mill insists that we examine and reexamine all of...