Ikeda Research Institute for Soka Education (IRISE) hosted a lecture in commemoration of the 150th death anniversary of J.S Mill

On June 27, 2022, a lecture hosted by the Ikeda Research Institute for Soka Education (IRISE) was held.

Theme: Why do we need the freedom of speech? – Reading J.S Mill’s Principle of Liberty
Lecturer: Kazunobu Narita (Keio University, Professor in Graduate School of Letters, Professor Emeritus of Keio University)
Location: Discovery Hall

J.S Mill was a leading philosopher and ethicist of the 19th century British philosophy, especially in the field of utilitarianism. The progenitor and father of Soka Education, Mr. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, had also referred to J.S Mill’s work when writing his youthful work – The Geography of Human Life.

Next year (2023) will mark the 150th death anniversary of J.S Mill, and the institute invited Professor Kazunobu Narita, who is an expert on contemporary ethics in the Anglo-American region and former president of the British Philosophical Association of Japan, to give a lecture on J.S Mill’s major work on Liberty.

In his lecture, Professor Narita spoke about Mill’s life, his utilitarian philosophy, and gave an overview of “On Liberty” together with its significance to be studied throughout centuries. Mill was educated by his father, James, a scholar in the field and a friend of Bentham and Philosophical Radicals, where he studied Greek, Latin, logic, and economics. At the age of 20, he suffered a “mental crisis” due to the influence of his father’s strict upbringing, but it was during this period that he studied Wordsworth, Carlyle, Coleridge, San Simon, Tocqueville and Humboldt, which led him to develop his own utilitarianism, focusing on the quality of happiness. Regarding the relationship between utilitarianism and the freedom of expression, he stated that the freedom of speech and freedom to express opinion are necessary to the spiritual well-being of mankind. Mill’s Principle of Liberty which examines and defends this view from a variety of perspectives, has had a profound influence on contemporary ethics and political philosophy. Furthermore, Mill had lived his entire life as an intellect in action, engaging in a wide range of discourses in philosophy, economics, political science, literature, gender studies, and participated in politics as a member of the House of Representatives for three years.

During the Q&A session, the participants discussed topics such as the extent to which freedom of speech should be guaranteed in order to overcome contemporary issues such as hate speech and slander on social networking sites.

Comments from student representatives
〇In the lecture, Professor Narita said, “I want you to read the classics carefully during your college days because you will realize the depth of the classics every time you read them. Although you may find them difficult, you will gradually understand them later.” With this encouragement in mind, I decided to bring the joy of studying at this university and to continue learning the intellectual assets of humankind until the end.

〇I was able to learn about Mill’s utilitarianism and liberalism theories. I was finally able to understand the goals of Mill’s utilitarianism and realized that the freedom of speech enables the development and exercise of intellectual abilities. I was elated that we have discussions in our university life, because the development and exercise of intellectual abilities is necessary for the spiritual well-being of humankind.

〇Today’s lecture made me realize that the freedom of speech and dialogue are extremely important. Any action that diminishes the other person’s opinion is only a selfish act and will never lead to the happiness of both parties. I would like to always act in the spirit of mutual respect for each other’s opinions.

〇It was mentioned in the lecture that the freedom of speech allows us to study philosophy, develop intellectual abilities, and to achieve true happiness. If we did not have the freedom of speech, we would not be able to learn freely, our perception of happiness would have changed dramatically, and we would be living a different life than we do now.

〇During the lecture, we learnt that even in an era when the freedom of speech was taken away by the military government, the father of Soka pedagogy, Mr. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, died in prison for his convictions. This fact reminded me of J.S. Mill’s way of life, who said “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.” I renewed my determination to speak my beliefs together with my friends without hesitation in the face of social upheaval.

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