JS Mill's Boundaries of Freedom of Expression: A Critique

Philosophy (2017).

44 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2017

Date Written: June 6, 2017


The essay opens with some background information about the period in which JS Mill wrote. The discussion revolves around the concept of blasphemy which Mill considered to be highly problematic. Tagging unpopular views as “blasphemous” amounted to abuse of governmental powers and infringed on the basic liberties of the out-of-favour speakers. The discussion on blasphemy sets the scene to the understanding of Mill’s concerns, his priorities and consequently his emphasis on the widest possible liberty of expression. Section II presents the Millian principles that are pertinent to his philosophy of free speech: liberty and truth. Section III analyzes Mill’s very limited boundaries to freedom of expression, asserting that the consequentialist reasoning had led Mill to ignore present tangible harm. It is argued that democracy is required to develop protective mechanisms against harm-facilitating speech.

Keywords: blasphemy, freedom of expression, Harm Principle, incitement, JS Mill, religion

JEL Classification: Z00

Suggested Citation

Cohen-Almagor, Raphael, JS Mill's Boundaries of Freedom of Expression: A Critique (June 6, 2017). Philosophy (2017)., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2992211

Raphael Cohen-Almagor (Contact Author)

University of Hull ( email )

Cottingham Road
Hull, Great Britain HU6 7RX
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.hull.ac.uk/faculties/staff-profiles/raphael-cohen-almagor.aspx

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