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John Stuart Mill and freedom of expression

O'Rourke, Kevin Charles; (1999) John Stuart Mill and freedom of expression. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis challenges traditional interpretations of John Stuart Mill's theory of freedom of expression, as exemplified in On Liberty (1859), by way of an examination of his other publications and correspondence. The first section outlines the evidence for the influences exerted on him during his youth, and examines his writings prior to 1859. His father's writings on the liberty of the press provide a framework within which to interpret Mill's earliest work on the same topic. Charges that Mill subsequently abandoned support for this perspective are examined and dismissed, while the importance of the influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge is highlighted. The role of Mill's wife in the formation and articulation of his mature ideas on individuality and liberty is emphasised. On Liberty itself is the subject of the second section. Mill's knowledge of criticisms by reviewers is used as a base from which to examine his defence of freedom of thought and discussion. The priority of the right to hear over the right to express opinions is clarified, and the essential anti-paternalism of Mill's defence is identified. The importance afforded to James Fitzjames Stephen's refutation of Mill is questioned, and historical and conceptual inaccuracies in some of the more prominent contemporary interpretations are pointed out. A refutation of the idea that Mill's defence of freedom of thought and discussion does not rely on his principle of liberty is attempted, and a reinterpretation of that principle is offered. Exceptions to freedom of expression are investigated in this light. The final section looks at Mill's writings after On Liberty, outlining how in his role as an MP and public figure he demonstrated the practical application of his theory.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: John Stuart Mill and freedom of expression
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Social sciences; Mill, John Stuart
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10100171
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