May 2015

The War on the Exceptional

by Limbic on May 31, 2015

Is there a war on the exception (radical) to the detriment of humanity?

Start with this “In Our Time” episode on Kierkegaard, the read these two essays by Anthony Judge:

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Mill on Eccentricity

by Limbic on May 31, 2015

Serbia’s Bojana Stamenov singing “Ceo Svet Je Moj” at the 2015 Eurovision song contest final.

“In this age the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”

Mill, John Stuart (2012-03-01). On Liberty (Dover Thrift Editions) (p. 56). Dover Publications. Kindle Edition.

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“We have created this social media system for ourselves where the only way to survive is to either be bland or silent”

Jon Ronson, Channel 4 News, 17 March 2015

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“This odd hell that childhood is, where you can be going through something in very close proximity to your parents, and they still can’t help you. You still can’t really tell anyone about it. It’s obsessed me, not just him, but generally that problem of childhood.”

Graham Linehan, This American Life Episode 314.

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No Right to Mental Comfort

by Limbic on May 16, 2015

I thoroughly enjoyed “Freedom from Speech” by Greg Lukianoff, in which he persuasively argues that much contemporary censorship is rooted in the idea that emotional and intellectual comfort ought to be a right.

The increased calls for sensitivity-based censorship represent the dark side of what are otherwise several positive developments for human civilization. As I will explain in the next section, I believe that we are not passing through some temporary phase in which an out-of-touch and hypersensitive elite attempts — and often fails — to impose its speech-restrictive norms on society. It’s worse than that: people all over the globe are coming to expect emotional and intellectual comfort as though it were a right. This is precisely what you would expect when you train a generation to believe that they have a right not to be offended. Eventually, they stop demanding freedom of speech and start demanding freedom from speech.

…I am constantly on the lookout for potential cures for this problem. Litigation plays an important role in the fight, as does having students engage in proper Oxford-style debates (like we see today in the Intelligence Squared series). Comedians and satirists may also join the pushback against the infinite care ethic; after all, it is blazingly clear that politically correct censorship and comedy are natural enemies. And, of course, nothing can replace teaching students at every level of education the old-fashioned intellectual habits of epistemic humility, giving others the benefit of the doubt, and actually listening to opposing opinions. Such practices need to make a comeback if we are to have a society in which it is at all productive (let alone pleasurable) to talk about anything serious.

The short book/pamphlet is full of great insights and an essential read for the modern free speech advocate.

 

As Lukianoff points out, the vanguard of the fightback is probably comedians. PC and Comedy are natural enemies. Here is Patton Oswalt’s viral skewering care ethic excesses:

See also

 

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