Mill's epistemic liberalism Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Turner, Piers Norris
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • In this dissertation, I explore the shape of John Stuart Mill's political thought in light of his attention to the epistemic quality of social and political arrangements. Specifically, I argue that his classic essay On Liberty can be properly understood only by giving a central place to two key epistemic considerations. First, he is concerned to maintain the social and political conditions that make possible the improvement of our understanding - the conditions required for discussion and experience. Social progress is, to Mill's mind, largely a function of intellectual progress, which is therefore at the core of his political designs, including in On Liberty. Second, Mill is concerned to organize society as well as possible in the here and now toward the achievement of the general good - and a chief element of the organizational part of his political designs is to give expression to the best available expertise on social and political matters. Appreciating the relationship between the progressive and organizational elements of his view allows us to come to a more satisfactory understanding of the liberty (or harm) principle as a part of the argument of On Liberty. As will be become clear in later chapters, on the interpretation I prefer: (1) the main argument of On Liberty is an argument about the conditions required for social progress, which is driven to a great extent by intellectual progress; (2) within those progressive conditions, Mill justifies his liberty principle - according to which social interference can be warranted only with regard to harm to others - as an organizational principle designed to give expression to expertise in decision-making.
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  • In Copyright
  • Postema, Gerald J.
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Open access

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