The Harm of Silencing Minority Opinions – a short reading from John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’

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If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind. In chapter 2 of On Liberty [1859], John Stuart Mill discusses free speech and censorship – particularly censorship which aims to suppress minority opinions. He gives four reasons for maintaining free speech and opposing censorship: A censored opinion may be true Even if it is literally false, it …

New Website: The Science and Philosophy Homepage

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We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit. The above quote is commonly attributed to Aristotle but this phrase cannot be found in any of Aristotle’s works. The real source is likely to be Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. Regardless of where the quote came from, it contains an element of truth. Our daily habits have a very large impact on the type of person we become. Perhaps the most important habit to form is to learn something new every day. So …

The Misery of Tyrants – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“He who is the real tyrant, whatever men may think, is the real slave, and is obliged to practise the greatest adulation and servility, and to be the flatterer of the vilest of mankind.” In this passage from book nine of Plato’s Republic, Socrates finally responds to the challenge set by Glaucon in book two; speaking as devil’s advocate, Glaucon claimed that people want nothing to restrict their desire for more and more of everything. If anyone could profit from acting unjustly and guarantee that they could get away with …

The Nature and Defects of Oligarchy – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“And so they grow richer and richer, and the more they think of making a fortune the less they think of virtue; for when riches and virtue are placed together in the scales of the balance, the one always rises as the other falls.” In this passage from book eight of Plato’s Republic, Socrates outlines the defects and eventual breakdown of oligarchy. Socrates describes oligarchy as “a government resting on a valuation of property, in which the rich have power and the poor man is deprived of it.” He claims …

The Allegory of the Cave – a short reading from Plato’s Republic

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“Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him?” In this passage, from book seven of Plato’s Republic, Socrates describes an unusual cave in which prisoners have been chained since childhood. The prisoners in this allegory represent the majority of mankind who perceive only the shadows of reality and hear only the echoes of truth. They cling to their mistaken view of reality and have no desire to escape their prison. Only philosophers make the journey out …