Nor is this surprising. As Mill’s great critic James Fitzjames Stephen noted, “the notorious result of unlimited freedom of thought and discussion is to produce general scepticism on many subjects in the vast majority of minds”. Such “paradoxes” (to put it politely) show themselves wherever the constructive part of Mill’s doctrine is glimpsed through his cheerleading for freedom and eccentricity.
Mill claimed a monopoly on the word “rational”. So long as that monopoly remains unchallenged our paralysis will be complete. The antidote to the moral helplessness that Mill’s liberalism generates is not to be found by digging deeper in the trench of liberal rationalisation. On the contrary, it begins with the recognition that no “one very simple principle” can relieve us of the duties we owe to the inhabited world that we, for this brief while, share with many others.