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The belief "that no one should be forcibly prevented from acting in any way he chooses provided his acts are not invasive of the free acts of others" has become one of the basic principles of libertarian politics.
That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right... The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
Harm itself is not a non-moral concept. The infliction of harm upon another person is what makes an action wrong.
Freedom is often defined as men being able to do what they want so long as they do no harm to another. But what is harm?
Consider the words of John Stuart Mill, who is often referred to as a promoter of the "do no harm" principle:
"Finally, if by his vices or follies a person does no direct harm to others, he is nevertheless (it may be said) injurious by his example, and ought to be compelled to control himself for the sake of those whom the sight or knowledge of his conduct might corrupt or mislead.
... If gambling, or drunkenness, or incontinence, or idleness, or uncleanliness are as injurious to happiness, and as great a hindrance to improvement, as many or most of the acts prohibited by law, why (it may be asked) should not law, so far as is consistent with practicability and social convenience, endeavor to repress these also?"
- John Stuart Mill, 'On Liberty'
Unfortunately we have found ourselves in a time, when every ones own opinion is so important to them that the above no longer holds true for some.
Everyone feels their views should be heard and listened to, no matter how ignorant, we have fostered an anti-intellectual attitude. when faced with reason logic the only response it can illicit is anger and hurt from people who where never taught to reason and debate in the school systems.
Just wanted to add that there are other ways of harming someone other than physically. Example: a child who was never physically harmed by a parent, but was verbally abused for years. Try telling that child they haven't been harmed. You can also damage someone's reputation forever with nothing more than words. Words are tricky because they can't be unheard - once they're out there, they are out there forever. If someone is already in a frail state (depression/suicidal, just recently lost a dear loved one, was previously abused), certain words can put them over the edge. So yes, words can harm.
Having said that, political and other opinions are rather impersonal, and I agree, it shouldn't harm anyone to hear an opinion they don't agree with. But to unilaterally say that words can never harm anyone is just not true.
They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying. Lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else, but I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests...
I could careless what you do or say as long as it doesn't harm me.
reply to post by whyamIhere
Perhaps it isn't this way for you,but it is for me. Words stem from thoughts linked to feelings,emotions,and opinions on a subject. My opinions,thoughts,are linked to my feelings and emotions. I cannot imagine simply debating a topic without feeling passionate about it. My words,and my choice of words,is an extension of ME. They become something,good or bad. Words can be used to build up or tear down. Create beauty,or poison. Has anyone here posted anything that harmed me physically,damn right. Words can be swords. I have had posts made directly to me that tore me up so much I swore I would never come back. With each one though,it made my skin thicker,my mind stronger. But make no mistake,the heart still hurts
Couldn't agree more, but this is easy to define.
his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.
...which also happens to be the part of the conduct that's next to impossible to define, someone might add.
The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others.