On Liberty Questions and Answers
by John Stuart Mill

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What are Mill's views on freedom of thought and expression in On Liberty?

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During the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill was one of the foremost believers in and practitioners of Utilitarianism, a system of thought that essentially declared an action to be proper if it was beneficial to the largest portion of society. In other words, according to the Oxford Reference, "an action is right in so far as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct."

In his highly respected essay, On Liberty , he is adamant that the preservation of individual liberty rests largely on protecting freedom of thought no matter how egregious or immoral and, by extension, the freedom to express oneself based on that thought. His ideas largely echoed the sentiments of the first amendment to the Constitution, which is to protect free speech in all manners and forms. Protecting the most egregious speech—the type of speech most citizens would disagree with—is the most crucial element to free expression, as speech...

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