No Right to Mental Comfort

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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