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JOHN STUART MILL’S IDEAS ON FREE SPEECH ILLUSTRATED

Edited by Richard V. Reeves and Jonathan Haidt | ART & DESIGN by Dave Cicirelli
INTRODUCTION
From street battles over controversial of the entire work. Our goal was to make
speakers in Berkeley, California to the “no it easy and enjoyable for a new generation
platforming” movement in British univer- to discover Mill’s best ideas on free speech
sities to the expansion of hate crime laws with just an hour or so of reading.
in Canada, the English speaking coun-
About us: We are an odd bunch, to be hon-
tries are consumed by debates over free
est: a Mill scholar who studies inequality
speech. The conflict is fiercest on univer-
at the Brookings Institution (Reeves), a
sity campuses. Both sides point to rights
social psychologist who studies morality
that must be protected; both sides point
at New York University’s Stern School of
to harms that will be suffered if the other
Business (Haidt), and an illustrator who
side gets its way. Neither side seems able to
loves provocative ideas (Cicirelli). We were
convince the other with logic, shame, or
drawn together by chance encounters in
violence. It is time to step back and look
which we discovered a shared belief that
at the big picture. Why is free speech im-
Mill deserves a wider audience, especially
portant in a modern liberal democracy?
among people embarking on a college ed-
ucation. Since Mill’s writing is unusually
The liberal democratic case for free speech
rich in metaphors and images, we wanted
was set out in 1859 by John Stuart Mill,
to convey some of his ideas visually, too.
the English philosopher, politician, and
activist, in his famous essay On Liberty. More about Mill: John Stuart Mill (1806-
That was more than a century and half ago 1873) is one of the most important think-
but his arguments have enduring value, ers in the liberal tradition. He was also
especially for students and teachers (who, an activist. He campaigned for women’s
if they are any good, are students too). rights, and was the first MP to introduce a
That is why we have decided to publish an bill for women’s suffrage into parliament.
edited extract of On Liberty. The text you He was a fiercely committed anti-racist,
are about to read is a little more than half strongly supporting the abolitionist move-
of chapter 2 of Mill’s book, or about a fifth

1
ment in the U.S., and the North in the versities are supposed to be special places
Civil War. Mill also led a successful cam- where dissent is prized and new and even
paign for the right to protest and speak in radical ideas can be tested. As judge Alex
London’s public parks. In Hyde Park, the Kozinski wrote in 2010 in a major case
famous Speaker’s Corner stands today as a regarding the First Amendment to the US
tribute to his victory. Constitution:

Mill’s main concern was not government The right to provoke, offend, and shock
censorship. It was the stultifying conse- lies at the core of the First Amendment.
quences of social conformity, of a cul- This is particularly so on college campus-
ture where deviation from a prescribed es. Intellectual advancement has tradi-
set of opinions is punished through peer tionally progressed through discord and
pressure and the fear of ostracism. “Pro- dissent, as a diversity of views ensures
tection, therefore, against the tyranny of that ideas survive because they are cor-
the magistrate is not enough,” he wrote. rect, not because they are popular.
“There needs protection also against the
tyranny of the prevailing opinion and Judge Kozinski was essentially channeling

feeling”. Mill saw people even as brilliant Mill, as you’ll see. But what would Mill

as Charles Darwin living in fear of the re- think of today’s college campuses? What

sponse their views would provoke. would he think about the growing number
of students and professors who say that
Mill was writing in Victorian England, they are afraid to speak up, not because
but his fears are perhaps even more press- they fear the government but because they
ing today as we all struggle to adapt to a fear each other?
new technology and a new social order.
Social media can now bring shame, angry Mill’s basic lesson was the timeless truth
mobs, and reputational destruction rain- that we need each other—even our op-
ing down on people within hours mere- ponents—more than we realize. We all
ly for expressing their honest opinions. tend to be arrogant and overconfident
Young people are particularly vulnerable that “our side” is right. We all suffer from
to such pressures, given their heavy use of the “confirmation bias”—the tendency to
social media, and this is part of the rea- search only for evidence that will confirm
son why college campuses have become our existing beliefs and prejudices. This is
ground zero in the speech wars. why diversity is so important, particularly
In the English speaking countries, uni- diversity of viewpoints: The only reliable

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cure for the confirmation bias is interact- recognize that we might not be right about
ing with other people who have a different everything all of the time, and that we
confirmation bias, and who do you the fa- have something to learn from others. We
vor of criticizing your ideas. also need to be open to the possibility of
altering our views, opinions, and even
Mill believed that the pursuit of truth
values based on our engagement with the
required the collation and combination
world. In other words, our identity as a
of ideas and propositions, even those
person must be kept separable from the
that seem to be in opposition to each
ideas we happen to endorse at a given
other. He urged us to allow others to
time. Otherwise, when those ideas are
speak—and then to listen to them—for
criticized, we are likely to experience a
three main reasons.
conversation, book, or lecture as an
First, the other person’s idea, however attack upon our self, rather than as an
controversial it seems today, might turn opportunity to think about something
out to be right. (“The opinion may more deeply.
possibly be true.”) Humility, openness, engagement, a strong
.
and maturing self that is always a work in
Second, even if our opinion is largely
progress; these are the necessary ingre-
correct, we hold it more rationally and se-
dients for a free society, and for shared
curely as a result of being challenged.
progress, according to Mill (who changed
(“He who knows only his own side of the
his mind about many things during the
case, knows little of that.”)
course of his life).
Third, and in Mill’s view most likely, op-
That’s enough from us. Time for the main
posing views may each contain a portion
event. Mill opens his argument for free
of the truth, which need to be combined.
speech by imagining a world in which just
(“Conflicting doctrines share the truth be-
one person holds a view contrary to that
tween them.”)
held by the rest of humanity. What harm
For free speech to be valuable to the could be done by silencing this
pursuit of truth, we all need to be both lone eccentric?
humble and open. We need humility to

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ALL
minus one
JOHN STUART MILL’S IDEAS ON
FREE SPEECH ILLUSTRATED

Edited by Richard V. Reeves


and Jonathan Haidt

Art & Design by Dave Cicirelli

All Minus One was produced by Heterodox Academy.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
©2018. All rights reserved. 4
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MILL’S FIRST ARGUMENT:

“THE OPINION MAY POSSIBLY BE TRUE”


If all mankind minus one, were of one opin- eration; those who dissent from the opin-
ion, and only one person were of the con- ion, still more than those who hold it. If the
trary opinion, mankind would be no more opinion is right, they are deprived of the
justified in silencing that one person, opportunity of exchanging error for truth:
than he, if he had the power, if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great
would be justified in si- a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier
lencing mankind... impression of truth, produced by its collision
with error.
The peculiar evil
We can never be sure that the opinion we are
of silencing the
endeavouring to stifle is a false opinion; and
expression of
if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil
an opinion is,
still.
that it is robbing
the human race;
First: the opinion which it is attempted to
posterity as well
suppress by authority may possibly be true.
as the existing gen-
Those who desire to suppress it, of course

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deny its truth; but they are not infallible. by all who surround them, or to whom
They have no authority to decide the ques- they habitually defer: for in proportion to
tion for all mankind, and exclude every a man’s want of confidence in his own soli-
other person from the means of judging. tary judgment, does he usually repose, with
To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because implicit trust, on the infallibility of “the
they are sure that it is false, is to assume world” in general. And the world, to each
that their certainty is the same thing as ab- individual, means the part of it with which
solute certainty. All silencing of discussion he comes in contact; his party, his sect, his
is an assumption of infallibility. Its con- church, his class of society: the man may be
demnation may be allowed to rest on this called, by comparison, almost liberal and
common argument, not the worse for be- large-minded to whom it means anything
ing common. so comprehensive as his own country or
his own age.
Unfortunately for the good sense of man-
kind, the fact of their fallibility is far from Nor is his faith in this collective authority
carrying the weight in their practical judg- at all shaken by his being aware that oth-
ment, which is always allowed to it in theo- er ages, countries, sects, churches, classes,
ry; for while every one well knows himself and parties have thought, and even now
to be fallible, few think it necessary to take think, the exact reverse. He devolves upon
any precautions against their own fallibili- his own world the responsibility of being in
ty, or admit the supposition that any opin- the right against the dissentient [differing,
ion, of which they feel very certain, may be dissenting] worlds of other people; and it
one of the examples of the error to which never troubles him that mere accident has
they acknowledge themselves to be liable. decided which of these numerous worlds is
the object of his reliance, and that the same
Absolute princes, or others who are ac-
causes which make him a Churchman in
customed to unlimited deference, usual-
London, would have made him a Buddhist
ly feel this complete confidence in their
or a Confucian in Pekin [Beijing]. Yet it is
own opinions on nearly all subjects. Peo-
as evident in itself, as any amount of argu-
ple more happily situated, who sometimes
ment can make it, that ages are no more in-
hear their opinions disputed, and are not
fallible than individuals; every age having
wholly unused to be set right when they are
held many opinions which subsequent ages
wrong, place the same unbounded reliance
have deemed not only false but absurd; and
only on such of their opinions as are shared

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it is as certain that many opinions, now mitting its refutation. Complete liberty of
general, will be rejected by future ages, as it contradicting and disproving our opinion,
is that many, once general, are rejected by is the very condition which justifies us in
the present. assuming its truth for purposes of action;
and on no other terms can a being with hu-
The objection likely to be made to this ar-
man faculties have any rational assurance
gument, would probably take some such
of being right.
form as the following[:] There is no great-
er assumption of infallibility in forbidding When we consider either the history of
the propagation of error, than in any other opinion, or the ordinary conduct of human
thing which is done by public authority on life, to what is it to be ascribed that the one
its own judgment and responsibility. Judg- and the other are no worse than they are?
ment is given to men that they may use it. Not certainly to the inherent force of the
Because it may be used erroneously, are human understanding; for, on any mat-
men to be told that they ought not to use ter not self-evident, there are ninety-nine
it at all? To prohibit what they think perni- persons totally incapable of judging of it,
cious, is not claiming exemption from error, for one who is capable; and the capacity
but fulfilling the duty incumbent on them, of the hundredth person is only compar-
although fallible, of acting on their consci- ative: for the majority of the eminent men
entious conviction... There is no such thing of every past generation held many opin-
as absolute certainty, but there is assurance ions now known to be erroneous, and did
sufficient for the purposes of human life. We or approved numerous things which no
may, and must, assume our opinion to be one will now justify. Why is it, then, that
true for the guidance of our own conduct: there is on the whole a preponderance
and it is assuming no more when we forbid among mankind of rational opinions and
bad men to pervert society by the propaga- rational conduct? If there really is this pre-
tion of opinions which we regard as false ponderance—which there must be unless
and pernicious. human affairs are, and have always been,
I answer, that it is assuming very much in an almost desperate state—it is owing
more. There is the greatest difference be- to a quality of the human mind, the source
tween presuming an opinion to be true, of everything respectable in man either as
because, with every opportunity for con- an intellectual or as a moral being, namely,
testing it, it has not been refuted, and as- that his errors are corrigible. He is capable
suming its truth for the purpose of not per- of rectifying his mistakes, by discussion

8
and experience. Not by experience alone. human intellect to become wise in any oth-
There must be discussion, to show how ex- er manner.
perience is to be interpreted.
The steady habit of correcting and com-
Wrong opinions and practices gradually
pleting his own opinion by collating it
yield to fact and argument: but facts and
with those of others, so far from causing
arguments, to produce any effect on the
doubt and hesitation in carrying it into
mind, must be brought before it. Very few
practice, is the only stable foundation
facts are able to tell their own story, without
for a just reliance on it: for, being cogni-
comments to bring out their meaning. The
sant of all that can, at least obviously, be
whole strength and value, then, of human
said against him, and having taken up his
judgment, depending on the one proper-
position against all gainsayers—know-
ty, that it can be set right when it is wrong,
ing that he has sought for objections and
reliance can be placed on it only when the
difficulties, instead of avoiding them,
means of setting it right are kept constantly
and has shut out no light which can be
at hand. In the case of any person whose
thrown upon the subject from any quar-
judgment is really deserving of confidence,
ter—he has a right to think his judgment
how has it become so? Because he has kept
better than that of any person, or any mul-
his mind open to criticism of his opinions
titude, who have not gone through a simi-
and conduct. Because it has been his prac-
lar process.
tice to listen to all that could be said against
him; to profit by as much of it as was just, It is not too much to require that what the
and expound to himself, and upon occa- wisest of mankind, those who are best enti-
sion to others, the fallacy of what was falla- tled to trust their own judgment, find nec-
cious. Because he has felt, that the only way essary to warrant their relying on it, should
in which a human being can make some be submitted to by that miscellaneous col-
approach to knowing the whole of a sub- lection of a few wise and many foolish in-
ject, is by hearing what can be said about dividuals, called the public… The Roman
it by persons of every variety of opinion, Catholic Church, even at the canonization
and studying all modes in which it can be of a saint, admits, and listens patiently to, a
looked at by every character of mind. No “devil’s advocate.” The holiest of men, it ap-
wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any pears, cannot be admitted to posthumous
mode but this; nor is it in the nature of honours, until all that the devil could say

9
against him is known and weighed... to well-being, that it is as much the duty
of governments to uphold those beliefs, as
Strange it is, that men should admit the va- to protect any other of the interests of so-
lidity of the arguments for free discussion, ciety. In a case of such necessity, and so di-
but object to their being “pushed to an ex- rectly in the line of their duty, something
treme;” not seeing that unless the reasons less than infallibility may, it is maintained,
are good for an extreme case, they are not warrant, and even bind, governments, to
good for any case. Strange that they should act on their own opinion, confirmed by the
imagine that they are not assuming infal- general opinion of mankind. It is also often
libility, when they acknowledge that there argued, and still oftener thought, that none
should be free discussion on all subjects but bad men would desire to weaken these
which can possibly be doubtful, but think salutary beliefs; and there can be nothing
that some particular principle or doctrine wrong, it is thought, in restraining bad
should be forbidden to be questioned be- men, and prohibiting what only such men
cause it is certain, that is, because they are would wish to practise.
certain that it is certain. To call any prop-
This mode of thinking makes the justifica-
osition certain, while there is any one who
tion of restraints on discussion not a ques-
would deny its certainty if permitted, but
tion of the truth of doctrines, but of their
who is not permitted, is to assume that we
usefulness; and flatters itself by that means
ourselves, and those who agree with us, are
to escape the responsibility of claiming to
the judges of certainty, and judges without
be an infallible judge of opinions. But those
hearing the other side.
who thus satisfy themselves, do not per-
In the present age—which has been de- ceive that the assumption of infallibility is
scribed as “destitute of faith, but terrified merely shifted from one point to another.
at scepticism”—in which people feel sure, The usefulness of an opinion is itself mat-
not so much that their opinions are true, as ter of opinion: as disputable, as open to dis-
that they should not know what to do with- cussion, and requiring discussion as much,
out them—the claims of an opinion to be as the opinion itself...
protected from public attack are rested not
[T]he dictum that truth always triumphs
so much on its truth, as on its importance
over persecution, is one of those pleasant
to society. There are, it is alleged, certain
falsehoods which men repeat after one
beliefs, so useful, not to say indispensable

10
another till they pass into commonplaces,
but which all experience refutes.

History teems with instances


of truth put down by
persecution. If not suppressed
for ever, it may be thrown back
for centuries.
To speak only of religious opinions: the
Reformation broke out at least twenty times
before Luther, and was put down… Protes-
tantism was rooted out; and, most likely,
would have been so in England, had Queen
Mary lived, or Queen Elizabeth died. Per-
secution has always succeeded, save where
the heretics were too strong a party to be
effectually persecuted. No reasonable per-
son can doubt that Christianity might have
been extirpated in the Roman Empire. It
spread, and became predominant, because
the persecutions were only occasional, last-
ing but a short time, and separated by long
intervals of almost undisturbed propagan-
dism.

It is a piece of idle sentimentality that truth,


merely as truth, has any inherent power de-
nied to error, of prevailing against the dun-

11
geon and the stake. Men are not more zeal-
ous for truth than they often are for error,
and a sufficient application of legal or even
of social penalties will generally succeed
in stopping the propagation of either. The
real advantage which truth has, consists in
this, that when an opinion is true, it may be
extinguished once, twice, or many times,
but in the course of ages there will gener-
ally be found persons to rediscover it, un-
til some one of its reappearances falls on a
time when from favourable circumstances
it escapes persecution until it such head
as to withstand all subsequent attempts to
suppress it...

[O]pinion, on this subject, is as efficacious


as law; men might as well be imprisoned,
as excluded from the means of earning
their bread. Those whose bread is already
secured, and who desire no favours from
men in power, or from bodies of men, or
from the public, have nothing to fear from
the open avowal of any opinions, but to be
ill-thought of and ill-spoken of, and this it
ought not to require a very heroic mould to
enable them to bear. There is no room for
any appeal ad misericordiam [on grounds
of pity] in behalf of such persons. But
though we do not now inflict so much evil
on those who think differently from us, as

12
it was formerly our custom to do, it may be far and wide, but continue to smoulder in
that we do ourselves as much evil as ever the narrow circles of thinking and studious
by our treatment of them. Socrates was put persons among whom they originate, with-
to death, but the Socratic philosophy rose out ever lighting up the general affairs of
like the sun in heaven, and spread its illu- mankind with either a true or a deceptive
mination over the whole intellectual firma- light. And thus is kept up a state of things
ment. Christians were cast to the lions, but very satisfactory to some minds, because,
the Christian church grew up a stately and without the unpleasant process of fining or
spreading tree, overtopping the older and imprisoning anybody, it maintains all pre-
less vigorous growths, and stifling them by vailing opinions outwardly undisturbed,
its shade. while it does not absolutely interdict the
exercise of reason by dissentients afflicted
Our merely social intolerance with the malady of thought. A convenient
kills no one, roots out no opin- plan for having peace in the intellectu-
ions, but induces men to disguise al world, and keeping all things going on
therein very much as they do already. But
them, or to abstain from any ac-
the price paid for this sort of intellectual
tive effort for their diffusion. pacification, is the sacrifice of the entire
With us, heretical opinions do not per- moral courage of the human mind.
ceptibly gain, or even lose, ground in each
decade or generation; they never blaze out

13
A state of things in which a large portion which can be spoken of without venturing
of the most active and inquiring intellects within the region of principles, that is, to
find it advisable to keep the genuine princi- small practical matters, which would come
ples and grounds of their convictions with- right of themselves, if but the minds of
in their own breasts, and attempt, in what mankind were strengthened and enlarged,
they address to the public, to fit as much as and which will never be made effectually
they can of their own conclusions to prem- right until then: while that which would
ises which they have internally renounced, strengthen and enlarge men’s minds, free
cannot send forth the open, fearless char- and daring speculation on the highest sub-
acters, and logical, consistent intellects jects, is abandoned.
who once adorned the thinking world. The
Those in whose eyes this reticence on the
sort of men who can be looked for under
part of heretics is no evil, should consider
it, are either mere conformers to common-
in the first place, that in consequence of it
place, or time-servers for truth, whose ar-
there is never any fair and thorough dis-
guments on all great subjects are meant
cussion of heretical opinions; and that such
for their hearers, and are not those which
of them as could not stand such a discus-
have convinced themselves. Those who
sion, though they may be prevented from
avoid this alternative, do so by narrow-
spreading, do not disappear.
ing their thoughts and interest to things

14
by the errors of one who, with due study
But it is not the minds of heretics and preparation, thinks for himself, than
that are deteriorated most, by the true opinions of those who only hold
by the ban placed on all inquiry them because they do not suffer themselves
to think.
which does not end in the
orthodox conclusions. The Not that it is solely, or chiefly, to form great
greatest harm done is to those thinkers, that freedom of thinking is re-
quired. On the contrary, it is as much and
who are not heretics, and whose
even more indispensable, to enable average
whole mental development human beings to attain the mental stature
is cramped, and their reason which they are capable of. There have been,
cowed, by the fear of heresy. and may again be, great individual think-
ers, in a general atmosphere of mental slav-
Who can compute what the world loses in
ery. But there never has been, nor ever will
the multitude of promising intellects com-
be, in that atmosphere, an intellectually
bined with timid characters, who dare not
active people. When any people has made
follow out any bold, vigorous, independent
a temporary approach to such a character,
train of thought, lest it should land them
it has been because the dread of hetero-
in something which would admit of being
dox speculation was for a time suspend-
considered irreligious or immoral? Among
ed. Where there is a tacit convention that
them we may occasionally see some man
principles are not to be disputed; where the
of deep conscientiousness, and subtle and
discussion of the greatest questions which
refined understanding, who spends a life
can occupy humanity is considered to be
in sophisticating with an intellect which he
closed, we cannot hope to find that gener-
cannot silence, and exhausts the resourc-
ally high scale of mental activity which has
es of ingenuity in attempting to reconcile
made some periods of history so remark-
the promptings of his conscience and rea-
able. Never when controversy avoided the
son with orthodoxy, which yet he does not,
subjects which are large and important
perhaps, to the end succeed in doing. No
enough to kindle enthusiasm, was the mind
one can be a great thinker who does not
of a people stirred up from its founda-
recognise, that as a thinker it is his first
tions, and the impulse given which raised
duty to follow his intellect to whatever con-
even persons of the most ordinary intellect
clusions it may lead. Truth gains more even

15
16
to something of the dignity of thinking be- an old mental despotism had been thrown
ings. Of such we have had an example in the off, and no new one had yet taken its place.
condition of Europe during the times im- The impulse given at these three periods
mediately following the Reformation; an- has made Europe what it now is. Every sin-
other, though limited to the Continent and gle improvement which has taken place ei-
to a more cultivated class, in the specula- ther in the human mind or in institutions,
tive movement of the latter half of the eigh- may be traced distinctly to one or other of
teenth century; and a third, of still briefer them. Appearances have for some time in-
duration, in the intellectual fermentation of dicated that all three impulses are well nigh
Germany during the Goethian and Fichtean spent; and we can expect no fresh start...
period. These periods differed widely in the
particular opinions which they developed;
but were alike in this, that during all three
the yoke of authority was broken. In each,

17
...until we again assert our mental freedom.

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MILL’S SECOND ARGUMENT: “HE WHO KNOWS

19
ONLY HIS SIDE OF THE CASE...”
quite so numerous as formerly) who think
Let us now pass to the second division of
it enough if a person assents undoubting-
the argument, and dismissing the supposi-
ly to what they think true, though he has
tion that any of the received opinions may
no knowledge whatever of the grounds of
be false, let us assume them to be true,
the opinion, and could not make a tenable
and examine into the worth of the man-
defence of it against the most superficial
ner in which they are likely to be held,
objections. Such persons, if they can once
when their truth is not freely and openly
get their creed taught from authority,
canvassed. However unwillingly a person
naturally think that no good, and some
who has a strong opinion may admit the
harm, comes of its being allowed to be
possibility that his opinion may be false,
questioned. Where their influence pre-
he ought to be moved by the consideration
vails, they make it nearly impossible for
that however true it may be, if it is not fully,
the received opinion to be rejected wisely
frequently, and fearlessly discussed, it will
and considerately, though it may still be
be held as a dead dogma, not a living truth.
rejected rashly and ignorantly; for to shut
There is a class of persons (happily not out discussion entirely is seldom possi-

20
ble, and when it once gets in, BELIEFS is nothing at all to be said on the wrong
NOT GROUNDED ON CONVIC- side of the question. The peculiarity of
TION ARE APT TO GIVE WAY the evidence of mathematical truths is,
BEFORE THE SLIGHTEST SEM- that all the argument is on one side. There
BLANCE OF AN ARGUMENT. {...} are no objections, and no answers to ob-
However, this possibility—assuming that jections. But on every subject on which
the true opinion abides in the mind, but difference of opinion is possible, the truth
abides as a prejudice, a belief independent depends on a balance to be struck between
of, and proof against, argument—is not two sets of conflicting reasons. Even in
the way in which truth ought to be held by natural philosophy, there is always some
a rational being. This is not knowing the other explanation possible of the same
truth. Truth, thus held, is but one supersti- facts; some geocentric theory instead of
tion the more, accidentally clinging to the heliocentric, some phlogiston instead of
words which enunciate a truth. oxygen; and it has to be shown why that
other theory cannot be the true one: and
{...} Whatever people believe, on subjects
until this is shown, and until we know
on which it is of the first importance to
how it is shown, we do not understand the
believe rightly, they ought to be able to
grounds of our opinion. But when we turn
defend against at least the common ob-
to subjects infinitely more complicated, to
jections. But, someone may say, “Let them
morals, religion, politics, social relations,
be taught the grounds of their opinions.
and the business of life, three-fourths of
It does not follow that opinions must be
the arguments for every disputed opin-
merely parroted because they are never
ion consist in dispelling the appearances
heard controverted. Persons who learn
which favour some opinion different from
geometry do not simply commit the the-
it. The greatest orator, save one, of antiq-
orems to memory, but understand and
uity [Cicero], has left it on record that he
learn likewise the demonstrations; and it
always studied his adversary’s case with
would be absurd to say that they remain
as great, if not with still greater, intensity
ignorant of the grounds of geometrical
than even his own. What Cicero practised
truths, because they never hear any one
as the means of forensic success, requires
deny, and attempt to disprove them.”
to be imitated by all who study any subject

Undoubtedly: and such teaching suffices in order to arrive at the truth.

on a subject like mathematics, where there


He who knows only his own side of the

21
22
case, knows little of that. His reasons may Ninety-nine in a hundred of what are
be good, and no one may have been able called educated men are in this condition;
to refute them. But if he is equally unable even of those who can argue fluently for
to refute the reasons on the opposite side; their opinions. Their conclusion may be
if he does not so much as know what they true, but it might be false for anything
are, he has no ground for preferring either they know: they have never thrown them-
opinion. The rational position for him selves into the mental position of those
would be suspension of judgment, and who think differently from them, and
unless he contents himself with that, he is considered what such persons may have
either led by authority, or adopts, like the to say; and consequently they do not, in
generality of the world, the side to which any proper sense of the word, know the
he feels most inclination. doctrine which they themselves profess.
They do not know those parts of it which
Nor is it enough that he should hear the
explain and justify the remainder; the
arguments of adversaries from his own
considerations which show that a fact
teachers, presented as they state them, and
which seemingly conflicts with anoth-
accompanied by what they offer as refu-
er is reconcilable with it, or that, of two
tations. That is not the way to do justice
apparently strong reasons, one and not
to the arguments, or bring them into real
the other ought to be preferred. All that
contact with his own mind. He must be
part of the truth which {...} decides the
able to hear them from persons who actu-
judgment of a completely informed mind,
ally believe them; who defend them in ear-
they are strangers to; nor is it ever really
nest, and do their very utmost for them.
known, but to those who have attended
He must know them in their most plau-
equally and impartially to both sides, and
sible and persuasive form; HE MUST
endeavoured to see the reasons of both in
FEEL THE WHOLE FORCE OF
the strongest light. So essential is this dis-
THE DIFFICULTY WHICH THE
TRUE VIEW OF THE SUBJECT cipline to a real understanding of moral
HAS TO ENCOUNTER AND DIS- and human subjects, that if opponents of
POSE OF; ELSE HE WILL NEV- all important truths do not exist, it is in-
ER REALLY POSSESS HIMSELF dispensable to imagine them, and supply
OF THE PORTION OF TRUTH them with the strongest arguments
WHICH MEETS AND REMOVES which the most skilful devil’s advocate
THAT DIFFICULTY. can conjure up.

23
24
To abate the force of these considerations, objectors have no opportunity of showing
an enemy of free discussion may be sup- that it is unsatisfactory? If not the public,
posed to say, that there is no necessity for at least the philosophers and theologians
mankind in general to know and under- who are to resolve the difficulties, must
stand all that can be said against or for make themselves familiar with those diffi-
their opinions by philosophers and theo- culties in their most puzzling form: and this
logians. That it is not needful for common cannot be accomplished unless they are freely
men to be able to expose all the misstate- stated, and placed in the most advantageous
ments or fallacies of an ingenious oppo- light which they admit of. {...}
nent. That it is enough if there is always If, however, the mischievous operation of
somebody capable of answering them, so the absence of free discussion, when the
that nothing likely to mislead uninstructed received opinions are true, were confined
persons remains unrefuted. That simple to leaving men ignorant of the grounds of
minds, having been taught the obvious those opinions, it might be thought that
grounds of the truths inculcated on them, this, if an intellectual, is no moral evil, and
may trust to authority for the rest, and does not affect the worth of the opinions,
being aware that they have neither knowl- regarded in their influence on the charac-
edge nor talent to resolve every difficulty ter. The fact, however, is, that not only the
which can be raised, may repose in the grounds of the opinion are forgotten in
assurance that all those which have been the absence of discussion, but too often the
raised have been or can be answered, by meaning of the opinion itself. The words
those who are specially trained to the task. which convey it, cease to suggest ideas, or
suggest only a small portion of those they
Conceding to this view of the subject the
were originally employed to communicate.
utmost that can be claimed for it by those
most easily satisfied with the amount of INSTEAD OF A VIVID CONCEP-
understanding of truth which ought to TION AND A LIVING BELIEF,
accompany the belief of it; even so, the THERE REMAIN ONLY A FEW
argument for free discussion is no way PHRASES RETAINED BY ROTE;
weakened. For even this doctrine acknowl- OR, IF ANY PART, THE SHELL
edges that mankind ought to have a ratio- AND HUSK ONLY OF THE
MEANING IS RETAINED, THE
nal assurance that all objections have been
FINER ESSENCE BEING LOST.
satisfactorily answered; and how are they
{...} It is illustrated in the experience of
to be answered if that which requires to be
almost all ethical doctrines and religious
answered is not spoken? Or how can the
creeds. They are all full of meaning and
answer be known to be satisfactory, if the
vitality to those who originate them, and

25
26
to the direct disciples of the originators. sion of the truth which they nominally
Their meaning continues to be felt in recognise, so that it may penetrate the
undiminished strength, and is perhaps feelings, and acquire a real mastery over
brought out into even fuller conscious- the conduct. No such difficulty is com-
ness, so long as the struggle lasts to give plained of while the creed is still fighting
the doctrine or creed an ascendancy over for its existence; even the weaker com-
other creeds. At last it either prevails, batants then know and feel what they are
and becomes the general opinion, or its fighting for, and the difference between
progress stops; it keeps possession of the it and other doctrines; and in that period
ground it has gained, but ceases to spread of every creed’s existence, not a few per-
further. When either of these results has sons may be found, who have realized its
become apparent, controversy on the fundamental principles in all the forms
subject flags, and gradually dies away. of thought, have weighed and considered
The doctrine has taken its place, if not as them in all their important bearings,
a received opinion, as one of the admit- and have experienced the full effect on
ted sects or divisions of opinion: those the character, which belief in that creed
who hold it have generally inherited, not ought to produce in a mind thoroughly
adopted it; and conversion from one of imbued with it. But when it has come to
these doctrines to another, being now an be an hereditary creed, and to be received
exceptional fact, occupies little place in passively, not actively—when the mind is
the thoughts of their professors. Instead no longer compelled, in the same degree
of being, as at first, constantly on the alert as at first, to exercise its vital powers on
either to defend themselves against the the questions which its belief presents to
world, or to bring the world over to them, it, there is a progressive tendency to forget
they have subsided into acquiescence, and all of the belief except the formularies,
neither listen, when they can help it, to or to give it a dull and torpid assent, as if
arguments against their creed, nor trouble accepting it on trust dispensed with the
dissentients [dissenters] (if there be such) necessity of realizing it in consciousness,
with arguments in its favour. From this or testing it by personal experience; until
time may usually be dated the decline in it almost ceases to connect itself at all with
the living power of the doctrine. the inner life of the human being. Then
are seen the cases, so frequent in this age
We often hear the teachers of all creeds of the world as almost to form the major-
lamenting the difficulty of keeping up in ity, in which the creed remains as it were
the minds of believers a lively apprehen- outside the mind, incrusting and petri-

27
fying it against all other influences ad- ence has brought it home. But much more
dressed to the higher parts of our nature; of the meaning even of these would have
manifesting its power by not suffering any been understood, and what was under-
fresh and living conviction to get in, but stood would have been far more deeply
itself doing nothing for the mind or heart, impressed on the mind, if the man had
except standing sentinel over them to keep been accustomed to hear it argued pro
them vacant. {...} BOTH TEACHERS and con by people who did understand
AND LEARNERS GO TO SLEEP it. The fatal tendency of mankind to leave
AT THEIR POST, AS SOON AS off thinking about a thing when it is no
THERE IS NO ENEMY IN THE longer doubtful, is the cause of half their
FIELD. errors. A CONTEMPORARY AU-
The same thing holds true, generally THOR HAS WELL SPOKEN OF
speaking, of all traditional doctrines—
“THE DEEP SLUMBER OF A DE-
those of prudence and knowledge of life,
CIDED OPINION.”
as well as of morals or religion. All lan- But {...} is the absence of unanimity an in-
guages and literatures are full of general dispensable condition of true knowledge?
observations on life, both as to what it is, Is it necessary that some part of mankind
and how to conduct oneself in it; obser- should persist in error, to enable any to
vations which everybody knows, which realize the truth? Does a belief cease to
everybody repeats, or hears with acqui- be real and vital as soon as it is generally
escence, which are received as truisms, received—and is a proposition never thor-
yet of which most people first truly learn oughly understood and felt unless some
the meaning, when experience, generally doubt of it remains? As soon as mankind
of a painful kind, has made it a reality to have unanimously accepted a truth, does
them. How often, when smarting under the truth perish within them? The highest
some unforeseen misfortune or disap- aim and best result of improved intel-
pointment, does a person call to mind ligence, it has hitherto been thought, is
some proverb or common saying, familiar to unite mankind more and more in the
to him all his life, the meaning of which, acknowledgment of all important truths:
if he had ever before felt it as he does now, and does the intelligence only last as long
would have saved him from the calamity. as it has not achieved its object? Do the
There are indeed reasons for this, other fruits of conquest perish by the very com-
than the absence of discussion: there are pleteness of the victory?
many truths of which the full meaning
cannot be realized, until personal experi- I affirm no such thing. As mankind im-

28
prove, the number of doctrines which are But instead of seeking contrivances for
no longer disputed or doubted will be con- this purpose, they have lost those they
stantly on the increase: and the well-be- formerly had. The Socratic dialectics,
ing of mankind may almost be measured so magnificently exemplified in the di-
by the number and gravity of the truths alogues of Plato, were a contrivance of
which have reached the point of being this description. They were essentially a
uncontested. The cessation, on one ques- negative discussion of the great questions
tion after another, of serious controversy, of philosophy and life, directed with con-
is one of the necessary incidents of the summate skill to the purpose of convinc-
consolidation of opinion; a consolidation ing any one who had merely adopted the
as salutary in the case of true opinions, commonplaces of received opinion, that
as it is dangerous and noxious when the he did not understand the subject—that he
opinions are erroneous. But though this as yet attached no definite meaning to the
gradual narrowing of the bounds of diver- doctrines he professed; in order that, be-
sity of opinion is necessary in both senses coming aware of his ignorance, he might
of the term, being at once inevitable and be put in the way to attain a stable belief,
indispensable, we are not therefore obliged resting on a clear apprehension both of
to conclude that all its consequences must the meaning of doctrines and of their evi-
be beneficial. dence. The school disputations of the mid-
dle ages had a somewhat similar object.
The loss of so important an aid to the
They were intended to make sure that the
intelligent and living apprehension of a
pupil understood his own opinion, and
truth, as is afforded by the necessity of
(by necessary correlation) the opinion op-
explaining it to, or defending it against,
posed to it, and could enforce the grounds
opponents, though not sufficient to out-
of the one and confute those of the other.
weigh, is no trifling drawback from, the
These last-mentioned contests had indeed
benefit of its universal recognition. Where
the incurable defect, that the premises ap-
this advantage can no longer be had, I
pealed to were taken from authority, not
confess I should like to see the teachers of
from reason; and, as a discipline to the
mankind endeavouring to provide a sub-
mind, they were in every respect inferior
stitute for it; some contrivance for making
to the powerful dialectics which formed
the difficulties of the question as present
the intellects of the Socratici viri [Socratic
to the learner’s consciousness, as if they
thinkers] but the modern mind owes far
were pressed upon him by a dissentient
more to both than it is generally willing to
champion, eager for his conversion.
admit. {...}

29
30
31
MILL’S THIRD ARGUMENT:

“CONFLICTING DOCTRINES SHARE


THE TRUTH BETWEEN THEM”
It still remains to speak of one of the prin- the truth between them; and the non-
cipal causes which make diversity of opin- conforming opinion is needed to supply
ion advantageous, and will continue to the remainder of the truth, of which the
do so until mankind shall have entered a received doctrine embodies only a part.
stage of intellectual advancement which at Popular opinions, on subjects not palpa-
present seems at an incalculable distance. ble to sense, are often true, but seldom or
We have hitherto considered only two never the whole truth. They are a part of
possibilities: that the received opinion may the truth; sometimes a greater, sometimes
be false, and some other opinion, conse- a smaller part, but exaggerated, distorted,
quently, true; or that, the received opinion and disjoined from the truths by which
being true, a conflict with the opposite they ought to be accompanied and limit-
error is essential to a clear apprehension ed. Heretical opinions, on the other hand,
and deep feeling of its truth. But there are generally some of these suppressed
is a commoner case than either of these; and neglected truths, bursting the bonds
when the conflicting doctrines, instead of which kept them down, and either seeking
being one true and the other false, share reconciliation with the truth contained in

32
the common opinion, or fronting it as ene- such being usually the most energetic, and
mies, and setting themselves up, with sim- the most likely to compel reluctant at-
ilar exclusiveness, as the whole truth. The tention to the fragment of wisdom which
latter case is hitherto the most frequent, they proclaim as if it were the whole.
as, in the human mind, one-sidedness has
Thus, in the eighteenth century, when
always been the rule, and many-sidedness
nearly all the instructed, and all those of
the exception. Hence, even in revolutions
the uninstructed who were led by them,
of opinion, one part of the truth usually
were lost in admiration of what is called
sets while another rises.
civilization, and of the marvels of modern
Even progress, which ought to superadd, science, literature, and philosophy, and
for the most part only substitutes, one while greatly overrating the amount of
partial and incomplete truth for another; unlikeness between the men of modern
improvement consisting chiefly in this, and those of ancient times, indulged the
that the new fragment of truth is more belief that the whole of the difference was
wanted, more adapted to the needs of the in their own favour; with what a salu-
time, than that which it displaces. Such tary shock did the paradoxes of Rousseau
being the partial character of prevailing explode like bombshells in the midst,
opinions, even when resting on a true dislocating the compact mass of one-sid-
foundation, EVERY OPINION WHICH EM- ed opinion, and forcing its elements to
BODIES SOMEWHAT OF THE PORTION recombine in a better form and with ad-
OF TRUTH WHICH THE COMMON OPINION ditional ingredients. Not that the current
OMITS, OUGHT TO BE CONSIDERED PRE- opinions were on the whole farther from
CIOUS, WITH WHATEVER AMOUNT OF ER- the truth than Rousseau’s were; on the
ROR AND CONFUSION THAT TRUTH MAY contrary, they were nearer to it; they con-
BE BLENDED.. No sober judge of human tained more of positive truth, and very
affairs will feel bound to be indignant much less of error.
because those who force on our notice
Nevertheless there lay in Rousseau’s doc-
truths which we should otherwise have
trine, and has floated down the stream
overlooked, overlook some of those which
of opinion along with it, a considerable
we see. Rather, he will think that so long
amount of exactly those truths which the
as popular truth is one-sided, it is more
popular opinion wanted; and these are
desirable than otherwise that unpopular
the deposit which was left behind when
truth should have one-sided asserters too;

33
34
the flood subsided. The superior worth stance, is the whole truth on that subject,
of simplicity of life, the enervating and and if anyone teaches a morality which
demoralizing effect of the trammels and varies from it, he is wholly in error.”...
hypocrisies of artificial society, are ideas [But] the exclusive pretension made by
which have never been entirely absent a part of the truth to be the whole, must
from cultivated minds since Rousseau and ought to be protested against; and if a
wrote; and they will in time produce their reactionary impulse should make the pro-
due effect, though at present needing to testors unjust in their turn, this one-sid-
be asserted as much as ever, and to be as- edness, like the other, may be lamented,
serted by deeds, for words, on this subject, but must be tolerated. If Christians would
have nearly exhausted their power... teach infidels to be just to Christianity,
they should themselves be just to infi-
TRUTH, IN THE GREAT PRACTICAL CON- delity. It can do truth no service to blink
CERNS OF LIFE, IS SO MUCH A QUESTION [ignore] the fact, known to all who have
OF THE RECONCILING AND COMBINING the most ordinary acquaintance with lit-
OF OPPOSITES, that very few have minds erary history, that a large portion of the
sufficiently capacious and impartial to noblest and most valuable moral teaching
make the adjustment with an approach to has been the work, not only of men who
correctness, and it has to be made by the did not know, but of men who knew and
rough process of a struggle between com- rejected, the Christian faith.
batants fighting under hostile banners…
When there are persons to be found, who I do not pretend that the most unlimit-
form an exception to the apparent una- ed use of the freedom of enunciating all
nimity of the world on any subject, even possible opinions would put an end to the
if the world is in the right, it is always evils of religious or philosophical sectari-
probable that dissentients have something anism. Every truth which men of narrow
worth hearing to say for themselves, capacity are in earnest about, is sure to be
and that truth would lose something by asserted, inculcated, and in many ways
their silence. even acted on, as if no other truth exist-
ed in the world, or at all events none that
It may be objected, “But some received could limit or qualify the first. I acknowl-
principles, especially on the highest and edge that the tendency of all opinions to
most vital subjects, are more than half- become sectarian is not cured by the freest
truths. The Christian morality, for in- discussion, but is often heightened and ex-

35
36
acerbated thereby; the truth which ought
to have been, but was not, seen, being
rejected all the more violently because
proclaimed by persons regarded as oppo-
nents.

But it is not on the impassioned parti-


san, it is on the calmer and more disin-
terested bystander, that this collision
of opinions works its salutary effect.
NOT THE VIOLENT CONFLICT BE-
TWEEN PARTS OF THE TRUTH,
BUT THE QUIET SUPPRESSION
OF HALF OF IT, IS THE FOR-
MIDABLE EVIL; THERE IS AL-
WAYS HOPE WHEN PEOPLE ARE
FORCED TO LISTEN TO BOTH
SIDES; it is when they attend
only to one that errors
harden into prejudices,
and truth itself ceases
to have the effect of
truth, by being ex-
aggerated into false-
hood. And since there
are few mental attributes more
rare than that judicial facul-
ty which can sit in intelligent
judgment between two sides of
a question, of which only one
is represented by an advocate
before it, truth has no chance but
in proportion as every side of it,
every opinion which embodies

37
any fraction of the truth, not only finds
advocates, but is so advocated as to be lis-
tened to...

Before quitting the subject of freedom


of opinion, it is fit to take some notice of
those who say, that the free expression
of all opinions should be permitted,
on condition that the manner be tem-
perate, and do not pass the bounds
of fair discussion. Much might be
said on the impossibility of fixing
where these supposed bounds are
to be placed; for if the test be
offence to those whose opinion
is attacked. I think experience
testifies that this offence is given
whenever the attack is telling
and powerful, and that ev-
ery opponent who pushes
them hard, and whom
they find it difficult
to answer, appears
to them, if he shows
any strong feeling on
the subject, an intem-
perate opponent.

But this, though an important


consideration in a practical
point of view, merges in a
more fundamental objection.
Undoubtedly the manner of as-
serting an opinion, even though
it be a true one, may be very ob-

38
jectionable, and may justly incur severe est zeal and righteous indignation. Yet
censure. But the principal offences of the whatever mischief arises from their use, is
kind are such as it is mostly impossible, greatest when they are employed against
unless by accidental self-betrayal, to bring the comparatively defenceless: and what-
home to conviction. The gravest of them ever unfair advantage can be derived by
is, to argue sophistically, to suppress facts any opinion from this mode of asserting
or arguments, to misstate the elements it, accrues almost exclusively to received
of the case, or misrepresent the opposite opinions.
opinion. But all this, even to the most ag-
gravated degree, is so continually done in The worst offence of this kind which can
perfect good faith, by persons who are not be committed by a polemic, is to stigma-
considered, and in many other respects tize those who hold the contrary opinion
may not deserve to be considered, igno- as bad and immoral men. To calumny of
rant or incompetent, that it is rarely pos- this sort, those who hold any unpopular
sible on adequate grounds conscientiously opinion are peculiarly exposed, because
to stamp the misrepresentation as morally they are in general few and uninfluential,
culpable; and still less could law presume and nobody but themselves feels much
to interfere with this kind of controversial interested in seeing justice done them:
misconduct. but this weapon is, from the nature of the
case, denied to those who attack a prevail-
With regard to what is commonly meant ing opinion: they can neither use it with
by intemperate discussion, namely invec- safety to themselves, nor, if they could,
tive, sarcasm, personality, and the like, would it do anything but recoil on their
the denunciation of these weapons would own cause. In general, opinions contrary
deserve more sympathy if it were ever pro- to those commonly received can only ob-
posed to interdict them equally to both tain a hearing by studied moderation of
sides; but it is only desired to restrain the language, and the most cautious avoid-
employment of them against the prevail- ance of unnecessary offence, from which
ing opinion: against the unprevailing they they hardly ever deviate even in a slight
may not only be used without general degree without losing ground: while un-
disapproval, but will be likely to obtain measured vituperation employed on the
for him who uses them the praise of hon- side of the prevailing opinion, really does

39
deter people from professing contrary THIS IS THE REAL MORALITY OF PUBLIC
opinions, and from listening to those who DISCUSSION: AND IF OFTEN VIOLATED, I
profess them. For the interest, therefore, of AM HAPPY TO THINK THAT THERE ARE
truth and justice, it is far more important
MANY CONTROVERSIALISTS WHO TO
to restrain this employment of vitupera-
A GREAT EXTENT OBSERVE IT, AND A
tive language than the other: and, for ex-
STILL GREATER NUMBER WHO CONSCI-
ample, if it were necessary to choose, there
ENTIOUSLY STRIVE TOWARDS IT.
would be much more need to discourage
offensive attacks on infidelity, than on re-
ligion.

It is, however, obvious that law and au-


thority have no business with restrain-
ing either, while opinion ought, in every
instance, to determine its verdict by the
circumstances of the individual case; con-
demning everyone, on whichever side of
the argument he places himself, in whose
mode of advocacy either want of candour,
or malignity, bigotry, or intolerance of
feeling manifest themselves; but not infer-
ring these vices from the side which a per-
son takes, though it be the contrary side of
the question to our own: and giving mer-
ited honour to everyone, whatever opinion
he may hold, who has calmness to see and
honesty to state what his opponents and
their opinions really are, exaggerating
nothing to their discredit, keeping noth-
ing back which tells or can be supposed to
tell, in their favour.

40
41
42
A WORD FROM THE ARTIST
This was a challenge. My fear, all along, linates another and vines tangle together.
was that I’d take this timeless work and It’s messy and unmanaged, but there’s
turn Mill into the teacher who tries too a beauty in that mess—a dynamic, un-
hard be cool. No one wants to see a 19th mapped land rich with possibility.
century philosopher spinning his chair
As we explore, we pluck many types of
around and saying “let’s rap.”
fruit from their stems. Some are sweet,
But as I began to pore over Richard and some bitter. But no matter what we taste,
Jonathan’s abridged version of the text, I it’s flavor is fully felt. Eventually, we come
realized the illustration process would re- across a fruit that is not just sweet, but
quire me to abridge it even further. I need- sustaining as well.
ed to distill this work down to a handful
We’ve discovered a living truth—a young
of concepts that I could bring to life as im-
tree who’s fruit fills us with clarity and
ages. I needed these images to tell a story.
purpose. Or, at least, that’s what it feels
like when we eat it. So we nurture the tree,
As I did this, I began to see how Mill’s
as it nourishes us. We both grow stronger.
ideas merge and meld. Their relationship
to each other became clearer, as did their But nature, for all it’s beauty, is not para-
wisdom. And my North Star emerged: dise. Bloom and rot share the same soil,
and the scent of both lingers in the air.
“...However true [your belief] may be, if We’re not alone in the woods. Venomous
it is not fully, frequently, and fearlessly snakes slither at our feet when we ap-
discussed, it will be held as a dead dog- proach the tree. Barbarians who feast on
ma, not a living truth.” toxic beliefs circle our camp, eager to raze
it to the ground.
Living truth versus dead dogma. This
simple yet beautifully complex contrast But we live in the wild too—and are ac-
gripped me. It was in this space between customed to its dangers. We see these
living truth and dead dogma that I saw a threats clearly. We confront them head on.
narrative unfold. This truth we’re keeping alive is alive in
—————————————————— us as well, and it gives us the strength to
drive the snakes deep into the ground, and
It begins in the wild, where one idea pol- the barbarians beyond the horizon.

43
But how do we make this victory perma- Our once living truth slowly dies—its fruit
nent? How do we keep this now sacred withers on dead branches. The once green
tree safe forever? grounds that surround it decay into gray.

We build walls around it. And the messy And soon all that remains of our once lush
wilds of nature are exchanged for the cu- garden are the cold iron bars and bare
rated beauty of a well kept garden. The stone walls of a prison.
tangled mess of vines are replaced with —————————————————————
the pleasing order of an exhibit.
I believe we’re always somewhere between
It lacks the dynamic of nature, but it’s nice living truths and dead dogmas. I believe
inside. The garden is lush, and the sweetest that’s true for societies. I believe that’s
fruit is available to us. Besides, the gate is true for individuals. I believe that’s true
open and we’re free to wander out into the for each opinion we hold. We all split our
wild. But most important, we’ve kept our time between exploring the wilds of new
sacred tree safe between its walls. thought and tending to the garden of what
we already believe.
Or have we? Because while we may think
for a moment we’ve built paradise, we But we need to remember how Mill de-
still built it within nature. And one day a scribes truth. It’s not an unbreakable object,
snake is found in the grass. Then a barbar- but a living thing that sustains itself on the
ian arrives at the gate. No longer familliar honest exchange of ideas. Once we begin to
with their sight, we allow fear to take root fear that exchange, then all encounters be-
in our garden. come indistinguishable from attacks. And
we foolishly turn our gardens into prisons,
So we lock the gate. And now the same iron where our once living truths wither into
bars that keep danger out also keep us in. the dead dogma of a barren mind.

We build our walls higher and higher— So my advice is this: don’t be afraid. Take
until they are impossible to climb. But the time to leave your garden. Wander
now they cast long shadows. And the very into the wilderness. Honor the ideas
same stone that blocks the paths of snakes you love by making your understanding
also blots out the sun. of them—not the walls that surround
them—stronger.
-Dave Cicirelli

44
LEARN MORE
LEARN MORE On Liberty, first published in London by
Parker in 1859. The best online version of
ABOUT MILL:
the whole essay can be found in The Col-
Read Richard’s biography, John Stuart; lected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume
Mill, Victorian Firebrand. XVIII - Essays on Politics and Society Part
I, ed. John M. Robson (Toronto: University
LEARN MORE ABOUT of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and
HETERODOX ACADEMY: Kegan Paul, 1977), from which these ex-
cerpts are taken. Where Mill has used a
Heterodox Academy is a non-profit alli-
word that is now rare or obscure, we have
ance of professors from across the political
put in a more modern word [in brack-
spectrum who agree with Mill that “he
ets]. Deletions from the original text are
who knows only his own side of the case,
marked thus: …. Some of Mill’s original
knows little of that.” We advocate for in-
paragraphs have also been broken into
creased viewpoint diversity in higher ed-
shorter ones.
ucation. We offer tools and ideas that help
universities create the vibrant cultures of The full text is available online at:
debate that Mill thought were essential for http://oll.libertyfund.org/ titles/
the pursuit of truth. mill-the-collected- works-of-john-stuart-
mill- volume-xviii-essays-on- politics-
Please visit us at: HeterodoxAcademy.org and-society-part-i-part-i

Please also visit OpenMindPlatform.org,


an interactive platform that any school
NOTE ON IMAGERY:
or organization can use to foster mutual All images were either wholly illustrated
understanding across various kinds of dif- by Dave Cicirelli or utilized assets
ferences. It is designed to extend the ideas obtained via standard license from
in All Minus One and train people to reap Shutterstock, Inc and PetaPixel. Select
the benefits of viewpoint diversity. images were inspired by the work of Jeff
Owens (@MyMetalHand), Frank Quitely,
NOTE ON THE TEXT:
Marius Sperlich (@mariussperlich) and El
The text in this book is an edited selection Lissitzky. Check them out!
from Chapter 2 of John Stuart Mill’s essay

45
ABOUT THE EDITORS
Richard V. Reeves is a Senior Fellow at the Dave Cicirelli is an artist, author, and
Brookings Institution, where he co-directs experiential creative director based out
the Center on Children and Families. His of Jersey City. As a creative director, he’s
research focuses on social mobility, in- known for immersive concert series head-
equality, and family change. Richard also lined by the likes of T-Pain, Q-Tip, Diplo,
teaches at the McCourt School of Public and other two syllable luminaries. He’s
Policy at Georgetown University. Richard is also known for independent artwork, such
the author of Dream Hoarders (2017), and as Fake Banksy Sells Out and authoring
John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand (2007). the prescient and funny memoir of the
early fake news era, Fakebook: A True Sto-
Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley ry Based On Actual Lies (2013). His latest
Professor of Ethical Leadership at New endeavour is Roschambeau!—a company
York University Stern School of Business. founded to bring new ideas to life
He is a social psychologist who studies
moral and political psychology. He is the
author of three books: The Happiness
Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in An-
THANK YOU
cient Wisdom (2006); The Righteous Mind:
Why Good People are Divided by Politics We thank Gerry Ohrstrom for his finan-
and Religion (2012), and The Coddling of cial support of this project, and we thank
The American Mind: How Good Intentions Jeremy Willinger
Willinger, communications
and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation director of Heterodox Academy, for his
for Failure (2018). He is a co-founder of many contributions at every stage.
Heterodox Academy.

46
All Minus One was produced by Heterodox Academy.
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©2018. All rights reserved.