The saying that small reforms may be the worst enemies of great ones
In what sense true
Illustration in the Elementary Education Act
Wisdom of social patience
The considerations which apply to political practice do not apply to
our own lives
Nor to the publication of social opinions
The amount of conscience in a community
Evil of attenuating this element
New side of the discussion
Is earnestness of conviction fatal to concession of liberty to others?
Two propositions at the base of an affirmative answer
Earnestness of conviction consistent with sense of liability to error
Belief in one’s own infallibility does not necessarily lead to
The contrary notion due to juristic analogies in social discussion
Connection between the doctrine of liberty and social evolution
The timid compromisers superfluous apprehension
Material limits to the effect of moral speculation
Illustration from the history of Slavery
Illustration from French history
Practical influence of a faith in the self-protecting quality of a
Note to page 242.
The Doctrine of Liberty
The design of the following essay is to consider, in a short and direct way, some of the limits that are set by sound reason to the practice of the various arts of accommodation, economy, management, conformity, or compromise. The right of thinking freely and acting independently, of using our minds without excessive awe of authority, and shaping our lives without unquestioning obedience to custom, is now a finally accepted principle in some sense or other with every school of thought that has the smallest chance of commanding the future. Under what circumstances does the exercise and vindication of the right, thus conceded in theory, become a positive duty in practice? If the majority are bound to tolerate dissent from the ruling opinions and beliefs, under what conditions and within what limitations is the dissentient imperatively bound to avail himself of this toleration? How far, and in what way, ought respect either for immediate practical convenience, or for current prejudices, to weigh against respect for truth? For how much is it well that the individual should allow the feelings and convictions of the many to count, when he comes to shape, to express, and to act upon his own feelings and convictions? Are we only to be permitted to defend general principles, on condition that we draw no practical inferences from them? Is every other idea to yield precedence and empire to existing circumstances, and is the immediate and universal workableness of a policy to be the main test of its intrinsic fitness?