login about faq

I've been reading On Liberty by JSM and he makes the argument censorship of important topics doesn't allow society to figure out what to do about these topics. Does objectivism hold these views too?

asked May 31 '14 at 15:47

TheBucket's gravatar image


edited May 31 '14 at 21:31

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

If J.S. Mill's views are considered to be the foundation and justification for individual liberty -- i.e., if individual liberty is "good" because "society" is the ultimate "sovereign" and individual liberty is allegedly good for "society" -- then Objectivism does not hold these views. Indeed, Objectivism classifies Mill's views as collectivism, not individualism. In her article, "An Untitled Letter" in PWNI Chapter 11, Ayn Rand describes Mill's views as follows, in a discussion of today's egalitarian trend and Europe's intellectuals (p. 153 in the Signet paperback edition of PWNI):

"Majority will" and "majority welfare" were [the intellectuals'] moral base and political goal which—they claimed—permitted, vindicated and justified anything. With varying degrees of consistency, this belief was shared by most of Europe's social thinkers, from Marx to Bentham to John Stuart Mill (whose On Liberty is the most pernicious piece of collectivism ever adopted by suicidal defenders of liberty).

In another article, "Thought Control," Part III (The Ayn Rand Letter, Volume II No. 2), Ayn Rand further described Mill's views as follows, in a discussion of pornography and censorship:

Religious influences are not the only villain behind the censorship legislation; there is another one: the social school of morality, exemplified by John Stuart Mill. Mill rejected the concept of individual rights and replaced it with the notion that the "public good" is the sole justification of individual freedom. (Society, he argued, has the power to enslave or destroy its exceptional men, but it should permit them to be free, because it benefits from their efforts.) Among the many defaults of the conservatives in the past hundred years, the most shameful one, perhaps, is the fact that they accepted John Stuart Mill as a defender of capitalism.

Refer also to OPAR, Chapter 11, section titled, "Opposition to Capitalism as Dependent on Bad Epistemology," pp. 406-412. Here is a very brief overview (pp. 410-412):

Without a proper epistemology, men do not use their minds properly, and their political conclusions are correspondingly worthless. In today's culture, this principle works out as follows. Irrationalism leads the intellectuals to discard the possibility of independence (of the reality orientation) in favor of altruism, which leads them to conclude that capitalism is evil.... [This] is why the intellectuals have never grasped the virtue of capitalism. They did not grasp it a century ago, and they are worse (and factually more ignorant) today. In every branch of the social sciences now, our intellectuals are literal "know-nothings," especially in the field of their own specialization. They are know-nothings because of their specialization, i.e., because of the kind of philosophy their years of academic training have instilled in them. [...]

The battle for the world is not a battle between two political ideals. It is a battle between two views of the nature of thought.

OPAR mentions J.S. Mill on p. 394, identifying him as a Utilitarian (greatest good for the greatest number) who became avowedly socialist in his later years.

Objectivism certainly does oppose censorship, of course, but not on the basis of any "Social Theory of Ethics." (Refer to that topic in The Ayn Rand Lexicon.) Censorship means suppressing the freedom of speech by initiating physical force against those who want to speak (and read); Objectivism identifies initiation of physical force against anyone as a major evil, thoroughly destructive of man's life. Objectivism identifies retaliatory physical force by or on behalf of the victims as the only proper and effective response. (This, incidentally, is not an a priori principle dogmatically asserted and adhered to; it is an objectively identified principle for living on earth, to be followed consistently in order to achieve its purpose.)

answered Jun 01 '14 at 18:39

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Share This Page:



Asked: May 31 '14 at 15:47

Seen: 668 times

Last updated: Jun 01 '14 at 18:39