Plato, James Madison, and John Mills are all supporters of the idea that opinion must be discussed in public debate. In my own reason-based thought this idea that through silence ignorance grows louder is my own general understanding.
In Plato’s The Republic he discuses the idea that there is first knowledge at the first degree. In the second degree there is opinion which is neither proven to be true or false. In the last degree is falsehood. He argues that opinion is not pure knowledge and therefore can not be pure truth. Plato goes on to say, “But surely when a man is deceived in his own mind we can fairly call his ignorance of the truth “true falsehood”. For a false statement is merely some kind of representation of a state of mind, an expression consequent on it, and not the original unadulterated falsehood.” This is also true for pure knowledge. The truth we believe in our own mind is true to us; it’s called our opinion. This shows that in order to form pure knowledge we have to voice the truth that is in our minds, which in fact are opinions. In order to learn pure truth we need to test opinions to prove their status. Plato stated, “And it will produce its natural effects also in the individual. It renders him incapable of action because of internal conflicts and division of purpose, and sets him at variance with himself and with all who are just.” He said this about men who were at odds with themselves. In reality falsehood causes inner conflict and in order to have inner peace that conflict must be resolved. Therefore, the falsehood in ones own mind must be purged and tested by the means of public debate to solve the inner conflict and set the man at peace.
In James Madison’s Federalist # 10 is also familiar with Plato’s writings. Madison said, “As long as the reason of man continues fallible, and he is at liberty to exercise it, different opinions will be formed. As long as the connection subsists between his reason and his self-love, his opinion and his passions will have a reciprocal influence on each other.” This idea connects with the thought that in order to find pure knowledge these opinions must be brought to public understanding to be tested and debated for their truthfulness. Madison further states, “No man is allowed to be judge in his own cause; because his interest will certainly bias his judgment, and, not improbably, corrupt his integrity.” Also in my opinion, the man will not have inner peace due to his bias. Thus, it is important to have a forum to voice these truths that we hold in our mind so as to have the inner peace we want.
John Mill, in his essay Liberty of Thought and Discussion talks of two hypotheses that are important in understanding why the act of public debate is necessary for pure knowledge to be found and have inner peace that is desirous. Mills said, “ We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.” , and “ While every one well knows himself to be fallible, few think it necessary to take any precautions against their own fallibility, or admit the supposition that any opinion, of which they feel very certain, may be one of the examples of the error to which they acknowledge themselves to be liable.” These passages show that Mills understands the depth of necessary idea of public debate to prove or disprove pure knowledge. He knows the human mind has it’s own truth and to avoid dangerous outcomes putting this truth to the public will certainly take care of creating falsehoods in ones own mind. Thus, putting every individual at a higher level and
Discovering and retrieving the very most truth from all opinions without burdening the individual with the chance of falsehoods. Mill’s goes on to say that its cowardice to shrink from ones own opinion because if its your truth that your withholding from yourself which causes self deceit. Opinions are not something to be taken lightly because in reality opinions are the substance that pure knowledge is taken from. However, without the opportunity to test these opinions in public debate the pure knowledge can not be sifted out.