Free Speech

Free speech is an ideal and a good. It is the nature of ideals and goods that they run up against other ideals and goods compromising their expression.

Plato’s Republic centers on the ideal of justice. By making justice the overriding emphasis of his hypothetical polis, Plato completely removes the ideals and goods of romantic love and familial love. Successful warriors are to be given their choice of mates and children are to be brought up in anonymous nurseries because parents tend to want the best for their children even when their children do not really deserve it.

The Republic is thus a reductio ad absurdum argument. Readers of Plato know that Plato considered love to be very important and love features extensively in The Symposium and The Phaedrus. Plato should not, therefore, be read as actually espousing his utopian city. He is engaged in a philosophical exercise; showing what it would take to have relatively perfect justice on earth while warning of taking the virtue to an excess.

Similarly, just as perfect earthly justice does not exist, neither does perfect free speech. There are other goods to consider, such as public safety and the protection of innocents. It is right and proper to set such limits on free speech. We should not abandon the word “justice” just because it is never absolute and it must contend with other goods and ideals and for the same reason we need not abandon the phrase and ideal of “free speech” just because perfect free speech is not to be seen. In fact, absolutely free speech would be an evil, just as concentrating only on justice would create evil. Even love must have its limits.

As I said in my essay on political correctness, some Marxists and other leftists like to reduce everything to issues of power and reject the idea that the free exchange of ideas can lead to truth. Likewise, adherents of identity politics often offer no argument and countenance no disagreement; starting sentences with, for instance, “As a black person…”. Such modes of speech qualify more as testimony than argument, although the testimony is likely to include all sorts of inaccurate factual claims and pseudo-explanations.

My position is that the free exchange of ideas and rational debate is a legitimate means of determining the truth. Anyone who disagrees with that and chooses to debate with me in the interest of convincing me of his views is engaged in a performative contradiction.

I can think of no proper limits to free speech other than speech that involves demonstrable harm to people who are not actively hurting anyone. Then the issue might become – “Is this person or group actively harming anyone?” And “Is violence or suppression of speech the appropriate mode of response to this harm?”

If there are limits to free speech, does it make sense to continue to use the phrase “free speech?”

Yes. To debate this issue presupposes that meaningful freedom is being exercised. If we are not meaningfully free, then debate is pointless. See my articles concerning free will and determinism.

If moral realism is accepted, then putting moral limits on free speech is not simply an exercise in power; it is to act morally. Tautologically, it will always be moral to act morally.

William James distinguishes between open questions and closed questions. The literal existence of the Greek gods is a closed question for most of us. The exact meaning of Christ’s crucifixion may be an open question. Political correctness is a practice that seeks to close open questions through sheer intimidation. Most of us at the Orthosphere disagree that what PC followers believe are closed questions are closed.

The avenues for expressing our disagreement are worryingly slight. If we give up on the notion that free speech is a virtue or even that it exists at all, then the left has every right to shut us up completely and shut down The Orthosphere as has happened elsewhere on other blogs.

As an undergraduate in philosophy, I did not enjoy having my conclusions decided for me in advance. My professors debated only what kind of materialism was the best kind. No alternatives were considered. This is not thinking. This is tyrannical conformity.

Faith is required to recognize many truths and doubt is its corollary. Counterfactuals like “What if God did not exist?” are often useful to consider to strengthen faith.

I do not find it helpful to suggest that the only proper opinions to express are the right opinions. The rightness of an opinion can often be best determined by comparing it to its alternatives. There is metaphysical truth and then there is epistemology. How are we to come to know this truth and once discovered, how are we to act concerning this truth? Such knowledge will require debate, if only with oneself.

26 thoughts on “Free Speech

  1. Pingback: Free Speech | readin' stuff

  2. @ Hi, Zippy:

    You are right. I used the word “inquisition” incorrectly. I was thinking only of The Spanish Inquisition.

    If a heresy is “an especially harmful falsehood which attacks a truth critical to social and spiritual stability” does that mean you are a kind of utilitarian or consequentialist? And which authority is to determine which falsehoods are heresies and how will they determine this? Spiritual stability seems pretty nebulous. Is Protestantism, for instance, to be eliminated? I don’t really know what you have in mind there.

    Is someone allowed to be allowed to preach atheism? Free speech would include, for me, the ability to spout heresies.

    We agree that some speech ought to be suppressed – so we can drop the topic.

    Referring to “the configuration you prefer” you are denying my moral realism. We are both in favor. I prefer the right configuration. I just strongly suspect that you and I have very different ideas about what that configuration would be.

    My contention is that free speech is necessary for determining what is indeed moral and not moral in order to determine which speech is to be suppressed. It’s an epistemic question, not metaphysical. Maybe I can draw a connection with science. Many scientific truths are regarded as false, until they are found to be true. I strongly suspect that at some point sciences like physics and biology require the notion of teleology, currently considered false and heretical – upsetting the agreed upon scientific consensus and therefore considered harmful.

    I’m not certain that anything that challenges spiritual and social stability is harmful. Our current social stability, such as it is, rests on harmful principles. So I’m not sure that your definition of heresy and the idea that all heresies should be suppressed is actually true.

    • [i]I’m not certain that anything that challenges spiritual and social stability is harmful. [/i]

      Sed contra:

      “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

      “Now I beseech you, brethren, to mark them who make dissensions and offences contrary to the doctrine which you have learned, and avoid them. For they that are such, serve not Christ our Lord, but their own belly; and by pleasing speeches and good words, seduce the hearts of the innocent.”

      “But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law. For they are unprofitable and vain. A man that is a heretic, after the first and second admonition, avoid: Knowing that he, that is such an one, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned by his own judgment.”

      “Six things there are, which the Lord hateth, and the seventh his soul detesteth: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that deviseth wicked plots, feet that are swift to run into mischief, A deceitful witness that uttereth lies, and him that soweth discord among brethren.”

      • @ Aristokles – Nice quotations! Those are all sound. But a) None of these things bear on free speech – we are just told to avoid such people and b) the key word in the bit you quoted is “stability.” Even Zippy wasn’t sure that simply aiming for stability is always a virtue. The sense of “anything” in your quoted bit from me might also be written “just anything.”

    • @ T. Morris: Oops! Sorry about that. I’ll go back and change all instances. It wasn’t intentional.

  3. In the OT, David is confronted by a man cursing him. Abner steps forward to kill him, but David says basically, if it’s from God you can’t fight it and if it’s not God may bless me to spite the other fellow.

  4. I can think of no proper limits to free speech other than speech that involves demonstrable harm to people who are not actively hurting anyone. Then the issue might become – “Is this person or group actively harming anyone?” And “Is violence or suppression of speech the appropriate mode of response to this harm?”

    You are importing a more basic moral commitment into your definition of free speech – the idea that speech ought to be constrained by a higher principle: that of avoiding demonstrable harm.

    I could affirm the same thing and still advocate for outlawing blasphemy and proselytization for atheism without contradiction: blasphemy demonstrably and actively harms the person uttering it. It also harms society. To proselytize for atheism is demonstrably and actively harmful to both the person doing the proselytizing and the people convinced by his rhetoric.

    I presume, however, that you would consider these types of speech permissible under your definition of free speech. Why? I would guess because you are assuming a classical liberal idea of ‘harm’: harm meaning something like physical harm as well as slander or libel. But to assume this is to beg the question.

    And what would you say to the person who thinks the principle of free speech itself involves demonstrable harm to people?

    And what would you say to the free speech advocate who disagrees with you and says that speech that involves demonstrable harm to people should be permitted?

    The question is always ultimately going to be about the conception of the good that underlies one’s advocacy of free speech.

    The avenues for expressing our disagreement are worryingly slight. If we give up on the notion that free speech is a virtue or even that it exists at all, then the left has every right to shut us up completely and shut down The Orthosphere as has happened elsewhere on other blogs.

    We don’t have to appeal to free speech. We appeal to the truth and rightness of our positions.

    Ultimately, how is the advocate of free speech in any different of a situation? He still has to appeal to the alleged truth and rightness of his particular conception of the principle of free speech. If the left doesn’t agree that his positions are covered by free speech or that the principle of free speech itself is bunkum, the left will still think they have every right to shut us up completely.

    Might as well just cut out the middle man and appeal to the truth and rightness of the actual positions we are trying to fight for.

    By the way, I recommend Bonald’s essay on censorship

    • @ Ian – my moral commitment is to morality. I’m a moral realist. If you and I disagree, as we do, then one of us is wrong. I have indicated where I think the moral truth lies and you have indicated your own notions. It is precisely because of the difficulty in determining which of us is right that I favor free speech.

      Your position presupposes that we know for sure which of us is right and then what? We get to shut down the other one? Free speech is an epistemic virtue.

      You say: “One could easily rewrite your statement I quoted above to be: I can think of no proper limits to speech other than speech that involves demonstrable harm to people who are not actively hurting anyone.” Yes. I call such speech, free.

      I’ll take a look at Bonald.

      • Your position presupposes that we know for sure which of us is right and then what? We get to shut down the other one? Free speech is an epistemic virtue.

        No, my position does not presuppose we know for sure what is right.

        It is simply an acknowledgement that speech is always limited and that these limits will be determined by society’s conception of the good.

        So I would prefer that these limits be based on a Christian conception of the good rather than on a liberal conception of the good (what we have now).

        What does the adjective ‘free’ do in your advocacy of free speech? One could easily rewrite your statement I quoted above to be: I can think of no proper limits to speech other than speech that involves demonstrable harm to people who are not actively hurting anyone.

        Does the meaning change at all when you drop the word ‘free’?

      • But your position also presupposes that you know for sure that you’re right, that none of us is sure which of us is right, and therefore Free Speech is the stand-off we must impose as the morally right way to keep the moral balance between people who cannot certainly know what is morally right, let alone impose it.

        “My commitment is to morality.” Then study some Thomistic Philosophy and understand basic, first principles. Your view is very confused, as should already be plain. The term “right” (as in “human right” or “this is my right” or “that’s not right”) is devoid of any substantive meaning or moral force, if it is not rooted in objective, transcendent principles that we can know. Otherwise, there would either be no “right,” or, if there was, it would be an unknowable thing to us (including the belief that it is “right” to allow Free Speech because nobody knows what is right; this is folly!). You should be able to spot all of the internal contradictions and impossibilities here – hence everything Zippy says about the sociopathy of Liberalism. And make no mistake, Free Speech as an absolute right or moral value, is damnable, heretical Liberalism.

        Pope Pius XII put it quite succinctly in two points.

        “First: that which does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be propagated or to free action.”

        This is obvious. “Right” would be meaningless, as I said above, if things objectively false and immoral had the “right” to exist, propagate and act freely. Falsehood and immorality cannot wrap themselves in the mantle of righteousness as a defense against righteousness. What, shall we blame God for not tolerating an interminable dialogue with the creation?

        “Second: failure to impede this with civil laws and coercive measures can nevertheless be justified in the interests of a higher and more general good.”

        The choice to tolerate a broad spectrum of speech can often be justified in service to an higher and broader good. So “Free Speech” as a policy is often a good idea; “Free Speech” as an absolute right, is an incoherent and impossible notion. There can be no absolute right to be, propagandize and act falsely and immorally – not if “right” means anything. And if you ask, who shall impose this, who knows what is true, etc.? Well, you are imposing your relativistic neutrality in absolutist terms. So, at least the Catholic Faith’s position is consistent, whereas yours cannot possibly be true or consistent, on the face of it.

      • @ aureliusmoner – My position does not presuppose that I know for sure that I am right. I am simply arguing that I am right. I offer my apparently controversial conclusion and then have offered reasons for it.

        I’m familiar with first principles. I’m a fan. I don’t remember using the word “right” with regard to free speech. I certainly never said we have an absolute right to free speech – that would be a very easy position to attack and I have never espoused it.

        Is free speech a good or a virtue? Absolutely. We are all exercising it here.

        Perhaps we can derive free speech from the virtue of justice. Would you like to be able to express your thoughts, bearing in mind the usual caveats concerning say, courtesy, and harming others? Yes? Me, too! What I hold true for myself, I hold true for you too under the golden rule – which is really just a way of formulating justice.

        People know what is right, but not infallibly. They make mistakes. Am I wrong about the rightness of free speech? Not as far as I can see. Could I logically be wrong about the virtue of free speech? Yes. What is the best way of determining whether I am right? To have a free and open discussion about it and find out what happens. So, mostly as a matter of logic, I can’t agree with a position that might be right if I am unaware of it. Better to hear it and make up my own mind.

        If I were asserting that free speech is a virtue infallibly, then you might have me in a contradiction. Nice point! I think we are most fallible when it comes to particular circumstances rather than abstract principles. The existence of justice is not an open question for me. However, with regard to what to do in some particular instance involving justice, we are all highly fallible. In that case, better to get as many perspectives as possible from people you trust.

        I’m a little horrified to find Pope Pius XII being quoted but:

        “First: that which does not correspond to truth or to the norm of morality objectively has no right to exist, to be propagated or to free action.”

        I’m not quite sure where the Pope was going with that. Is he going to decide? And then what’s he planning to do about it? It’s making me nervous. Children are often wrong and haven’t yet developed morally. Do they have a right to exist? Should all sinners be murdered? We certainly don’t want to promote lies and immorality, but what are we to do with people who are just wrong? Gluttony is a sin. Should gluttons be prevented from acting freely?

        Your ending surprised me:

        “The choice to tolerate a broad spectrum of speech can often be justified in service to an higher and broader good. So “Free Speech” as a policy is often a good idea; “Free Speech” as an absolute right, is an incoherent and impossible notion. There can be no absolute right to be, propagandize and act falsely and immorally – not if “right” means anything.”

        I agree with you. I think Zippy has persuaded you that I think free speech does not exist if it is restricted in some way. I do not. Perfectly free speech would be immoral and unattainable. Even perfect justice on the Earthly realm would lead to horrors. Zippy is just insistent that I stop calling it free speech if it is not perfectly free. I think that’s ridiculous.

  5. Pingback: Free Speech | Reaction Times

  6. Richard Cocks,

    From my perspective (I’m on the non-existence-of-free-speech side of the fence, full disclosure), a lot of these discussions seem to hinge on a hesitancy regarding not so much the Truth, but the ability of humans to know that Truth. There seems to be a sort of fear (?that may be too strong a word) that because, for example, you were wrong once before you very well may be wrong still now. Therefore, better to have all the options on the speech-table just to be sure. Even the slavery comment from the earlier thread can be a derivative of that – from my perspective.

    I in no manner wish to impute this to you personally, but “free speech” is used by some as a sort of “better to reign in hell than serve in heaven” sort of hedge.

    As an aside – and I apologize if I missed it – I do wish you would exercise your free speech to write your thoughts on the casual summer’s Plotinus and Beauty assignments! : )

    • @ Thanks, Wood. I’ll get on it!

      I like to follow my nose. I read one book and get interested in some topic and then read another. I talk to one person, read a book, change my mind, think again, move on. I have lived under two regimes. One an absolutely hardcore materialist atheist one (University of Canterbury). And now I work at a place where nearly every professor seems to think it his job to disparage Western civilization in some way. I don’t mind there being some hardcore atheists and some people who engage in the culture of repudiation. But, I don’t like it when people simply follow each other mimetically around in circles and all alternative viewpoints are suppressed. I’ve had enough of mob rule and want to be left alone to arrive at my own conclusions. And after all the hard work of actually thinking and arriving at my own conclusions I wouldn’t mind being allowed to express them.

      Anyone who doesn’t like free speech obviously isn’t used to having their speech and thoughts suppressed. It’s always possible that some mob may accidentally agree with me under an intense regime of censorship, but I’m not holding my breath and what if I change my mind? I would like everyone to be able to think for themselves, listen to all sides, even the most diabolical and then decide.

      I don’t want to get interested in a topic only to find that some committee, some inquisition, either right wing or left wing, has beaten me to the library and burnt all the books I want to read.

      Learning involves changing one’s mind. I sometimes tell my students that we are often not kind to our future selves. We drink too much and then suffer the next day. Or we watch YouTube when we should be studying – only for later self to pay the price. Restrictive censorship that suits you just fine today may well be the very topic your later self is most interested in.

      Political correctness is a scapegoating exercise that harms thought – to hell with it!

      • (i)Anyone who doesn’t like free speech obviously isn’t used to having their speech and thoughts suppressed(/i)

        If I expressed my political views under my own name, I would almost certainly lose my job, be blacklisted within my field, lose a huge swathe of my friends, be ostracized by a good portion of my family, etc. And yet I still think that “free speech” is essentially an incoherent concept, for the reasons articulated by Zippy, Ian, et al. Or does that not count as suppression?

      • @ Aristokles against the world – Oh, it most certainly does count as suppression. I’m not a fan of the whole suppression business and so long as I am not claiming that free speech can have no restrictions at all maybe you’ll come around to thinking that you ought to be allowed to express your views after all.

      • The reason that you have encountered so many colleagues that are either hardcore materialist atheists or disparagers of Western Civilisation may be because they have had the opportunity to listen to even the ‘most diabolical’ side.

        Had there been better delineated and enforced limits to free speech, these errors may not have spread, and we may not have found ourselves suffering from their sour fruit, political correctness.

      • @ mickvet – I guess that’s one way of looking at it. I’m still thinking that mob mentality and mindless conformity play a huge part. It is not as though they all independently arrived at the same conclusions. Of course, academic hiring practices also select those types.

        It’s sometimes hard for those of us in academia to remember not everyone is as mad as us and for nonacademics to imagine how mad academics are.

  7. Having never governed a territory, I can’t say what is the proper way to deal with heretical and dangerous speech, but the problem with the current regime doesn’t seem to be that speech is suppressed, it’s that Truth is suppressed at least relative to lies. Of course, any law or social sanction against Truth never has any binding moral force and we are all under obligation to Truth even to the point of death.

  8. @ Aristokles against the world – Oh, it most certainly does count as suppression. I’m not a fan of the whole suppression business and so long as I am not claiming that free speech can have no restrictions at all maybe you’ll come around to thinking that you ought to be allowed to express your views after all.

    I do believe that I ought to be allowed to express my views, but I believe I ought to be able to express them because they are true, not because I operate within the ostensibly neutral but not really arena of “free speech.”

    My beliefs have been ruled as outside the bounds of free speech precisely because they are taken to violate the principle of harm that you articulated earlier-the idea that causing harm to someone is a legitimate reason to restrict speech (which I agree with). The problem is that without a clearly articulated conception of what constitutes harm, i.e. a higher moral commitment that trumps our attachment to free speech and rendering the concept fairly meaningless (the question remains what work “free” is doing if what we’re talking about is “speech that is free within bounds.”), the bounds of the arena are set by mere will, might makes right. And if we don’t acknowledge this, then it leaves free speech as a universal solvent, something which can always be appealed to as a means to eliminate speech contra liberalism. Thus, we must tolerate the preaching of heresy, but suggesting that heretics ought to be suppressed is met with the highest opprobrium, and, inevitably, violence. Meanwhile, the defenders of free speech mewl lamely about their rights, as the will to power shovels more and more souls into its maw.

    Even Zippy wasn’t sure that simply aiming for stability is always a virtue. The sense of “anything” in your quoted bit from me might also be written “just anything.”

    I misinterpreted your use of “anything,” taking you to mean, “there is no thing which challenges spiritual/societal stability that I am convinced is harmful” (indicating that you were convinced of a rather obviously false belief) rather than, “I’m not convinced that everything that challenges spiritual/social stability is harmful.” (which makes a lot more sense, and I’m sorry I didn’t see this in the first place).

    Sorry, also for taking until this point to get the html tags right.

    • @ Aristokles Contra Mundum – Thank you for your comments.

      I agree that the principle of harm that I articulated can be sorely abused and HAS been sorely abused and people like you and me who chafe against political correctness have been hurt by this.

      It is commonly agreed upon that the abuse of a principle does not thereby vitiate its truth or appropriateness. Helping people is often good – but I can harm you (e.g., locking you away for your own safety) while claiming to be helping you.

      John Stuart Mill (a stopped clock is right twice a day – and even he was sometimes right) was careful to articulate that harm meant real physical harm and the like. Showing harm required meeting very exacting standards. The mere fact that I find something said “offensive” does not constitute harm. If it did constitute harm, the more easily I am offended, the more your speech would be curtailed. Students are being drilled in being offended by their professors. Conservative descriptions of such types include the epithet “snowflakes.”

      I rewrote the beginning of the tiny “Free Speech” essay to explain what work I think the word “free” is doing and why limitations on a virtue does not make that virtue disappear.

      You are right – we need a clearly articulated conception of what constitutes harm and without it, the concept can be used as a mere exercise of power. And this needs to be the case whether us right-wingers are in charge or the progressives.

      I sometimes read about say the senate thinking about changing the rules of governing the senate but then looking into the possible future when the senate is controlled by the other party and thinking again. We should do the same.

      The notion of free speech is included in the American constitution. It is supposed to be something all Americans subscribe to. Therefore, it potentially has at least some rhetorical force when used to criticize the behavior of other Americans. When Antifa shuts down speakers, we can ask “What about free speech?” Without the concept of free speech, we have NOTHING. Only war – which unfortunately seems to be the general direction we are heading right now.

      You and I and people like us, must point out the gross over-extension of the concept of “harm” and make it clear that our speech is very far from free. Hurting someone’s feelings cannot be considered so harmful that speech must be suppressed.

  9. Richard Cocks,

    Without the concept of free speech, we have NOTHING. Only war –

    I believe the near complete inverse of that is actualy true. What you are currently seeing as war is not because we are “losing” our free speech. It’s because people are taking the incoherent notion of free speech rather seriously. Since “free speech” (as you’ve agreed I believe) actually means speech that is limited by an authority and since in our modern free speech loving society there is the concomitant lie that we the people are that actual authority, then the war you are witnessing are individuals or groups at war with each other over whose “limitations” of free speech lead to that really virtuous sort of free speech. Social justice warriors are just that – WARRIORS – for the free speech you’ve espoused. You just don’t like their particular view on virtuous limitations.

    tl;dr: to hell with free speech

    • @ Wood – I’m not really sure what alternative to free speech you have in mind. It is definitely true that I don’t like SJW’s limitations on free speech since enormous swathes of truth are excluded from it and also because SJWs are engaged in scapegoating. In fact, their entire philosophy consists of scapegoating.

      I believe that we can and should object to particular limitations on free speech. And no, I don’t like their view on virtuous limitations. I have a moral disagreement with SJWs about that along with everything else they believe.

      I think there should be different limitations. I imagine you do too. What’s the alternative to disputing limitations of free speech? Not to have free speech at all and maybe put the burden of proof not on those who want to express themselves rather than those who want to censor?

  10. Focus on securing sovereignty and perhaps the problem of “free” speech resolves itself. A truly secure sovereign can tolerate, and indeed should (because he is competing with other sovereigns) positively encourage, all kinds of social criticism as long as it is genuinely interested in securing sovereignty by developing new paradigms of sovereign order. What is truly seditious or blasphemous becomes clear by examination of the intent of the speaker. Does he love or respect the sovereign? Or, does he truly believe in the spontaneous generation of order on some anarchic “principle”? If so, he needs to be schooled in human reality, preferably by those truly concerned with his well being. Now that we are passing through the liberal era, teachers will have all kinds of material to illustrate this reality. Does he now believe largely in his own resentment of the hierarchy on which the principles of his specific sovereign order are articulated? Deny him the means of broadcasting his resentment. Does he mean to act violently or organize sedition/blasphemy on the basis of that resentment? then lock him up. What is Antarctica for, if not a penal colony? If all the sovereign orders can agree to reserve Antarctica for the true “blue” globalists, we have a solution. They mostly believe in global warming anyway….

  11. @ Richard Cocks:

    I fail to see why academics should be more immune to ‘mob mentality and mindless conformity’ than anyone else. On the contrary, they ought to be more vulnerable than most because of their isolation amongst their own. The dangers of group-think, and I got this from Chesterton, are highest amongst the comfortably-off urbanites. The village-dweller is likely to meet a much greater variety of mankind than the middle-class, sophisticated cityman who mixes, in his work and entertainment and just about everything else, mainly with those who share his worldviews. The university seems to provide a more extreme form of this. Perhaps this is an inherent flaw of the concept of a centralised university. It isn’t nearly universal enough.

    This is compounded by the fault of many academics, as you described excellently in your Sydney Trads article, in thinking themselves not as pursuers of wisdom but as wisdom itself. They know it all, and cannot contemplate anyone beneath them having any right of a contrary opinion. In the context of academics having become almost identical in their thinking there is effectively nobody, apart from a few exceptions like yourself, to challenge them. As their ‘great minds’ are overly highly regarded in society, they are able to disproportionately influence what becomes standard ‘thought’.

    • @ mickvet – Yes. That all makes sense. Chesterton and you are probably right. It is certainly empirically true. I don’t expect academics to be less prone to mob mentality than anyone else, but I am horrified by the extent of it. Regarding how academics see themselves and their role I am particularly impressed with Thomas Sowell’s analysis in “The Vision of the Anointed.” You can guess who the anointed are!

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