Free speech is essential for protecting one's ability in society to question beliefs and to advance social progress. Freedom of speech for the sake of freedom of speech allows people to rigidly keep dearly held beliefs and ends up preventing social progress.

Free of speech is meaningless unless it is used within its proper historical context and its intended purpose. That context is tied to values derived from the Age of Enlightenment, where reason, justified beliefs, and scientific progress were valued over faith, dogma, and religion, and such values are key to social progress.

Freedom itself is often used out of context in contemporary society. Where it once meant to be free from superstition, faith, religious dogma, and governments derived from these, it has now devolved into the right to do as one pleases, to live a life unperturbed by others. This mindset also prevents social progress if it it becomes the dominant view and prevents the flourishing of a rational society.

Freedom of speech and freedom should be interpreted in their correct intended context, which is to dispel the infusion of irrationality, dogma, and the supernatural from our lives, and to let us debate with reason and evidence. Those are the terms and lead to a particular type of freedom and freedom of speech, where reason and science prevail, and a particular type of society flourishes.

Freedom of speech, which was originally based on the valuing of rationality, should not be misused to make the irrational submissive to the rational.

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James, if you will identify some of the ways that speech is used out of context, and the resulting harms, I for one will know what concerns you.

Freedom itself is often used out of context in contemporary society. Where it once meant to be free from superstition, faith, religious dogma, and governments derived from these, it has now devolved into the right to do as one pleases, to live a life unperturbed by others.

 James, I must admit that I see it both ways. For example, when looking at LGBT issues you could say that those issues would fall squarely in the frame work of "to live a life unperturbed by others", but you could also say that someone who is more enlightened, not driven by dogma would be much more likely to accept societal advances without much trouble. I'm not saying you're wrong, but rather it may just depend on where your initial viewpoint starts from. You may only be looking at one side of the coin.

As much as I hate their constant droning about being persecuted, their politics being better, the countries moral going down the drain, etc, etc, I still have to side with them having the freedom to say it. Our constitution was written to protect those very rights of free speech and free press because our founders saw what the effects of having an institutionalized church working hand in hand with the government was like in Europe. Plus there's the old "slippery slope" problem, once you start curtailing one groups freedom of speech, where do is stop?

>Let me pursue the truth unperturbed.

Definitely a worthy goal! This is a bit off topic, but it reminded me of a great thought from horror author H.P. Lovecraft:

If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth . . 

There is no freedom without responsibility to exercise that freedom in a manner which at minimum considers if not respects others, and this includes speech.  Concurrently, there is no freedom of speech without the freedom to accept responsibility for said speech and whatever consequences may accompany it.  Too many people treat freedom of speech as license to speak, free of any fallout which may result from what is said.  Such is too frequently the kind of attitude which reflect privilege with the expectation of no untoward outcome.  This has been an ongoing pattern with those in power, whether political, religious or racial, practically from the beginning of civilization.

Slowly but surely, recognition of both white and christian privilege as problematic factors in the current sociological situation is happening.  Equalization has barely started, amidst considerable protest from those who have not just enjoyed the privilege they've been accorded but treated it as automatic when it is not.  Balancing the scales will likely be a long, slow process and not without further protest, if not a stronger reaction.  Still, if we expect to live in a free and rational society, that correction isn't just desirable; it is necessary.

Free speech is a bit of a sticky wicket.

Whereas it's easy to see that my right to swing my fist ends at the beginning of your nose, it's not so easy to discern, much less codify, where my right to say incendiary things begins to harm others and should therefore perhaps be curtailed or in some way limited. On one hand, ideally anyone should have the right to say anything that's on their mind. On the other hand, there is no reliable way to distinguish between true and false speech, so there's no possibility of any objective standard by which to judge speech. In other words, bullshit rules everything and will continue to do so. right to swing my fist ends at the beginning of your nose, ....

Bert, read further only if you can handle being disillusioned.

I used that fist swinging metaphor a few times and didn't want to surrender it when a law student told me that

1) placing my fist where it threatens your nose is an assault, and

2) moving my fist even a fraction of an inch toward your nose adds battery to the offense.

Barron's Law Dictionary says the former is "both a personal tort and a criminal offense and thus may be a basis for a civil action and/or a criminal prosecution."

At a time you find convenient and in a manner you also find convenient, you may thank me for alerting you to the proximity of the unkindly hands of the law.

Thanks for the clarification, Tom. Yet another thing the nuns taught us that was rubbish.

I don't like the mess that freedom allows. Allow kids freedom from socialization and they go wild. Let adults free speech and many say and do stupid things. That is the cost of liberty. 

Working with boys in boy's ranches provided an enlightening experience for me. I found that troubled kids tended to have three kinds of problems that brought them to juvenile court where judges sent them to boys ranches. 

1. A parenting style that was too rigid, too controlling and the boy either rebelled and caused problems in the community or self-regulated to the point he was a zombie, looking for someone to tell him what to think and do. 

2. The parenting style that was too lenient, that set no boundaries, allowed all behaviors even to the point of bullying. 

3. A parenting style that set firm boundaries and widened what was permissible as the boy learned attitudes and behaviors that gave him enough room to explore and make mistakes and held him accountable for his decisions. The difficulties these boys encountered were bad influences. At a certain age, a boy values his peers more than his parents. He makes decisions that are detrimental to himself and causes other people or property damage. 

The treatment plan included putting each boy on a strict regimen with clear behavioral criteria to master before moving on to a higher level of performance.  We discussed with the kid what was acceptable behavior that he had to master before he could move out of the tight controls. Those criteria included personal hygiene, care of his bed and belongings in the dorm, mastery of homework as reflected in grades. A boy at this level had little free time; he was under supervision at all times. 

Oh! Joseph, I can hear you now, telling me that was not the strategy that would work for you. 

This group was called Tenderfoot. If these boys wasted time they were TUDYs; Tenderfoot Under Duress. 

When the boy mastered self-discipline, he moved up a notch, had more free time, had access to the horses, went on swimming and skiing trips, could use the craft shop for woodwork and metalwork projects of their choosing. They could participate in the boxing team, wrestling, baseball, football, track and basketball during the seasons. 

The final step was demonstrating an ability to get along with his parents, a tough one because every child has a time of separation when he is trying to move into a self-sufficiency stage. Some boys do it the easy way, by demonstrating that he can make decisions based on his ability to support himself financially, can find and stay on a job, or create a job of his own that helps his year around needs, i.e. lawn care, snow removal, simple repair tasks. Some boys rebel, resist authority, break rules causing problems for others or damaging property. Too many use alcohol or drugs, or race cars, or have unprotected sex. These expressions of rebellion serve him poorly.

Meanwhile, I am conducting parenting classes so that the parents can learn useful parenting skills that respect the parents' needs and the boy's needs. They learn communication skills, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills. They learn how to work together as a team. 

Now, let's look at the adults of our nation. How many have the skills that I describe? How many know how to face conflict without using violence? How many can perform the skills required in partnership? How many can create their jobs instead of finding a job? 

In my opinion, we have a citizenry of adolescents. 

Yes, freedom is messy, it requires skills and a desire to be part of a community. 

Very nicely stated, Joan. I agree - essentially we're a nation run by opinion polls taken from people who haven't developed beyond the egocentric stage.

"Freedom of speech and freedom should be interpreted in their correct intended context, which is to dispel the infusion of irrationality, dogma, and the supernatural from our lives,"

Free speech is necessarily open. The moment you start requiring a 'context', you have a basis for censorship. The truth is, what is 'rationa', varies from one generation to the next, and is primarily influenced by whomever is in power at the time. The people who would restrict speech ALWAYS believe they are right to do so.

Speech must NOT be restricted

When Bill Maher was praising Hillary's "I believe in science" comment, Salman Rushdie reminded him that science proves things to you. You don't have to believe in it.

Free speech means one thing in a small face-to-face community, another in a virtual world of anonymity and secrecy, where trolls can get away with anything. With the ability to seek out the few among billions that happen to share one's peculiar perversions, uncensored, it's not freedom squared but freedom to the perverse degree. There's no social enforcement. That's why I participate here at AN, because we're troll free.

If "perverse" can be imagined mathematically.




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