J.S. Mill’s Thoughts On Opinions Linked to 1492
J.S. Mill presents some thought-provoking ideas about pursuing opinions. He explains that it is man’s obligation to act on his opinion. He continues to explain how, “To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same as absolute certainty,” (601). After reading this quote, I instantly thought of Christopher Columbus. Back in the 15th century, Columbus thought the world was round and that he could reach the East by sailing west to get to India, China, Japan and the Spice Islands in order to bring back valuable resources. However, Columbus did not propose his ideas until he did extensive research to confirm that the world was round. This supports Mill’s claim that, “It is the duty of governments, and of individuals, to form the truest opinions they can; to form them carefully, and never impose them upon others unless they are quite sure of being right,” (601). This is exactly what Christopher Columbus did prior to presenting his ideas.
After asking Portugal’s King John II for money and ships for his voyage, he got turned away and was told that his ideas were ridiculous. Since the accepted belief was that the world was flat, everyone thought Columbus was crazy. At first, he received the same rejection from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Eventually King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella decided to financially back his voyage. As a result, the world discovered that this planet is in fact round. This also proves Mill’s suggestion that we should follow our opinions, “…because other people, in less enlightened times, have persecuted opinions now believed to be true,” (601). So after viewing how, despite the rejection from the public, Christopher Columbus stayed with his opinion that the world is round, we can model this course of action with our own opinions.