One of the most important assumptions about human nature that Mill makes is about how people best learn about their opinions and activities. He argues that even if a person is correct, she will only truly understand her views if she is challenged by dissenting opinions and has to defend herself. A similar claim holds in the case of nonconformist activities. Mill’s belief, however, is disputable; it is questionable whether people will best understand their opinions and values because of facing dissent. For example, one could argue that a person might simply become unnecessarily hurt and upset because of facing challenging views. Thus, since Mill’s view is based on the social utility of individuality, if his belief is incorrect some of the strength of the theory is lost. Mill must be then be able to show that his theory brings about the most desirable outcome from the point of view of overall well-being. If people do not learn from dissenting opinions and nonconformity, then it is much harder to make the case that liberty increases utility.

The argument would also lose a lot of rhetorical power if Mill’s view of human nature were wrong. Mill is probably correct that most opinions and activities are not completely right. However, most people tend to believe that their own views are correct. Thus, if Mill is wrong that people are best off being challenged when they are right, then his other discussions would likely not have resonance with his readers, because they would not necessarily see themselves as being potentially wrong about deeply held beliefs.

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