Friday, 1 July 2011

Everyday philosophy

I have sometimes been assured by a friend that she believes what I say about 'minor disputes' with colleagues because I always present their side of the story as well as my own.  I'm not sure why I do that apart from my 'failing' of being altogether too open with everyone.  (Perhaps that is not a failing so much as feature of my character.)

However, I found the perfect quote to support that way of speaking, from English philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806 to 1873).

He who only knows his side of the case knows little.  His reasons may have been good and no one may have been able to refute them, but if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side then he has no ground for preferring either option.

John Stuart Mill might not be a household name but he was a great advocate of liberty and freedom of speech at a period when these ideas were developing rapidly.  More than any previous philosopher, he was also largely responsible for the development of the harm principle. The harm principle holds that each individual has the right to act as they want, so long as these actions do not harm others.  It is probably part of the way that most of us think in the modern Western world, even if we do not realise how much effort went into its development.

On a more humorous note, Mill was at least influential enough to have made it into the Monty Python Philosophers' song.  You can find that very easily on Youtube if you like, but not being a huge fan of Python sketches I decline to put myself to the pain of finding it for you.

John Stuart Mill
Of his own free will
On half a pint of shandy
Was particularly ill

No comments: