Abstract

John Stuart Mill’s defense of free discussion in On Liberty includes the claim that silencing discussion implies an “assumption of infallibility.” This claim is often dismissed as absurd on the ground that a censor might attempt to silence an opinion he believes to be true but pernicious, or because rational assurance short of infallibility is obviously sufficient to justify censorship. This paper argues that Mill’s argument concerns the epistemic position one assumes with regard to future persons and circumstances as a result of attempting to settle some matter irremediably, and thus sets an important authority-limiting constraint on social authority and individuals in matters that otherwise would fall under their rightful control.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 93-117
Launched on MUSE
2013-02-01
Open Access
No
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