Shake Things Up
Today in lecture and section we talked a lot about Mill’s argument that even wrong opinions should be heard. In section specifically, we discussed Burke’s position on Mill’s argument, with the obvious resounding answer being that he would most likely have been opposed. However, which one is right? Both hold valid points, which one is more productive?
Burke takes that stance that wrong opinions are not productive, and that in fact they will generally hurt a society. He discusses the French Revolution, and addresses the citizens that were uprising as having the wrong opinions, and the founding fathers (ancestors) as having the right ideas for the government. He states “You had all these advantages in your ancient states, but you chose to act as if you had never been molded into civil society and had everything to begin anew.” He is saying that the ancestors gave them the correct mold for a good government, but this uprising broke a good mold. In other words, the wrong opinions ruined the government. This could also correlate with Burke’s view that the politically elite held office for a reason, and that “normal” citizens, such as a blacksmith, did not possess the wisdom for a government.
Mill is the opposite of this. Mill feels that the wrong opinion can strengthen a true, or right opinion. It is at this point that I will offer my view that Mill is the correct theorist. In my opinion, it is ignorant not to innovate and have new ideas come into the flow. Even if these new opinions turn out to be wrong, they may have strengthened the pre-existing opinion. I think that the “wrong” opinions are almost always worth listening to. I would like to think that maybe Burke himself was scared of the unknown factor that the French Revolution brought with it. Although it seemed gruesome, I feel that maybe the French needed it at that point in time in history. Wrong opinions shake things up, and I think very often, for the right and wrong, things need to be shaken up.