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"Let us suppose, therefore, that the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice." (source: On Liberty: Chapter 2 Of the Liberty of Thought and Discussion By John Stuart Mill)

What does the phrase "Let us suppose" exactly mean here? Does it mean (1) We had better think or believe OR (2) We regard or We literally suppose or imagine?

Which of the two fits the context better? Could you help me clarify it? Thank you always.

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    Let us assume (that something is actually true) for the sake of argument,.. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 20 '18 at 12:31
  • Let us suppose that people had three legs, but some people had two left feet while others had two right feet. How would the shoe industry accommodate such variation? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 20 '18 at 12:34
  • Let us suppose that the people have one voice. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 20 '18 at 12:38
  • Thank you so much for your kind answer. Actually I understand its original meaning. But, if its original meaning is taken, as far as the context is concerned, it just does not sound natural. I don't think that was the impression or the mood the author was trying to convey or create. – DeborahJeong Feb 20 '18 at 12:44
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    It sounds fine to me for formal writing of 150 years ago. Today, in casual conversation we might say Let's suppose that government is perfectly in tune with the wish of the people and would never force them to do anything that they don't want to be forced to do in the first place. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 20 '18 at 12:46
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It is stating an assumption. Exactly what that assumption is for one would have to judge from context, but it is saying that, for the purpose of discussion, he is assuming that "the government is entirely at one with the people, and never thinks of exerting any power of coercion unless in agreement with what it conceives to be their voice".

It is an idealistic view, and looking at the context it's hard to tell if he's actually buying into it or just using it as a tool for argument. However, he's then going on to say that, even if we suppose that this is the case - that is, we assume it for the sake of argument - certain other things would or would not be the case.

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