Author Topic: Freedom of Speech  (Read 5799 times)

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Offline Ender

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Freedom of Speech
« on: March 18, 2009, 12:25:33 PM »
Back when we were cavemen, it would make sense that better hearing and vision were naturally selected. (Taste seems pretty irrelevant; it probably only mattered in a much earlier stage in our evolution.) When evolution took us to a certain point, that being civilization, it must have stopped selecting our senses because they no longer mattered in terms of survival. (This is all pretty obvious...) The way that drugs alter our sensation and perception is that they imbalance our brain chemistry, and nature obviously would never have selected it. Imagine cavemen trying to hunt while stoned...

As for Trust losing "trust" in senses and perceptions, it may interest some of you to look into various theories of aesthetics. I think the background of this whole conversation on sensation is the question of whether drugs should be spiritualized or not -- whether altering sensation and perception is good for its own sake. In aesthetic theory, sensation is often viewed as the key to beauty -- in computer science terms, you may think of it as a map, sensation --> beauty. Different aesthetic theories, however, regulate how sensation is meant to be used in apprehension. Two that come to mind are those you read in Oscar Wilde and James Joyce. They are respectively influenced by the aesthetic theories of Walter Pater and Aquinas. (If you want to first learn these theories through reading the novels, you should stop reading this post here.) In Wilde, new sensations should be explored for their own sake, in a rather blind and indiscriminating manner. It is perhaps an end in its own, though more broadly the end is a recourse to Arnoldian Hellenism, in the midst off an overly-Hebraic Victorian society. For Joyce, sensation should be used in a very strict, regulated way. It should only be used towards the more worthwhile goal of artistic apprehension. One must find the modes of artistic apprehension, and discover the nature of beauty, so that sensation can be used accordingly.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 10:03:01 PM by Ender »

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #1 on: March 18, 2009, 02:08:08 PM »
Back when we were cavemen, it would make sense that better hearing and vision were naturally selected. (Taste seems pretty irrelevant; it probably only mattered in a much earlier stage in our evolution.) When evolution took us to a certain point, that being civilization, it must have stopped selecting our senses because they no longer mattered in terms of survival.
I don't think that civilization has altered our evolution at all, yet. Evolution happens over millions of years, but we've only been civilized for a couple thousand, tops. There hasn't been enough time to evolve significantly since then.


That's true. I don't really know why I said that... I guess I mean that senses seem to be irrelevant for evolution in the future. To explain why our senses have whatever keenness they have now, and not more, is probably more along the lines of the consequences there would be if our brain chemistry was altered. For instance, the blind gain enhanced senses at the loss of sight; drugs that enhance a certain sense (which I don't really know about... but Trust brings up) do so while imbalancing our brain chemistry, and this imbalance would never have been selected because it would have interfered with hunting, etc.

It's also an interesting question to ask whether evolution is over, whether it will plateau. Evolution is based on the way that nature and the environment influence our survival, but now with science and medicine we are more and more autonomous from environment, and can guarantee our own survival. There are probably recessive genetic diseases that will be selected against, because the carriers will die from it before they can reproduce. But it seems that if humanity persists and technology progresses evolution will eventually plateau. Of course, the Ozone could really mess things up, and asteroids, but technology could always become advanced enough to dismiss these things.

Personally I don't find this very interesting though :P (Even though I call it an interesting question...) The purpose of my post was more to show that Trust's equivocation on the subject of drugs is not at all novel and goes back to an age-old debate on the value of sensation.


Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2009, 02:29:38 PM »
Also, to respond to the OP.

MM, I realize that you partially remove ownership of your comments by saying "could be considered beneficial". Personally I think this is a cheap tactic -- a kind of trap in argument -- but I will play along with it. So I am not responding to you in criticizing this proposal; I am instead criticizing the proposal itself with no allegations of your ownership. If the proposal is not the same as your "potential" proposal, so be it; it is pretty clear what the proposal is regardless.

I think it is silly to say that alcohol and drugs could be put to the effect of self-development. Alcohol does improve your confidence, but this should not be taken seriously. There are plenty of things that improve one's confidence that aren't drugs themselves. For instance, having a hot girl accompany you to a dance probably improves your confidence. Or being the "alpha-male" among a group of guys probably improves your confidence in talking to a girl. But these aren't drug-related. So the implication that alcohol has some kind of therapeutic value in improving confidence is silly because therapeutic value implies that alcohol is the "best tool for the job", but clearly there are many "tools for the job" -- many ways of improving confidence -- and alcohol is one of the worst options, in light of its negative effects.

As for marijuana, it is silly to say that it could achieve mental growth, for it would be used as a crutch, and a crutch is always at odds with mental growth. Marijuana may not be physically addictive, but there would still be a dependence born out of this use of it. Not necessarily an addiction, but a dependence, and this would not be good; there would rather be a regression in mental growth. If marijuana really were such a great thing for mental growth, there would be an academic following to such a theory. The view that there is a conspiracy against people's happiness among academia and all of the various psychiatrical institutions is quite juvenile -- if marijuana really did make us better human beings, they would use it; they would not sacrifice the "right answer" and their reason to political bias.

Personally, I think marijuana should be legalized, but not because it has value for mental growth. I think it should be legalized simply for the reason in that people who smoke it are getting ripped off in terms of price, and also because it is far less safe getting it on the black market than it would be from a convenience store. I also don't think it's very harmful -- much less so than cigarettes -- so I think it makes sense to legalize it. On the contrary, I think it is quite silly to exalt marijuana, and I think that part of the reason why it is so glorified is for the very reason that it is illegal. A certain demographic that argues for its legalization has a vested interest in its illegality, the existence of which they are probably naive to.

I think that in general the glorification of alcohol and drugs is very naive and selfish. It is glorified simply because people want to find spiritual value in it; the desire to find this value precedes and anticipates the actual discovery of the value. I think it would make sense that such a trend exists in the atheist population, as they feel keenly the absence of spirituality in their choice to desert or abstain from religion. But spirituality can be found in other, better ways, in more honest ways, and I think it is silly to turn to drugs and alcohol as a gateway to spirituality. It is a rather desperate, naive, and self-serving choice -- it is also somewhat self-deluding.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 02:38:48 PM by Ender »

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2009, 08:09:44 PM »
The thing I don't like about Mill is how much faith he puts in the average individual. He seems to do this out of necessity: he needs to say that an average member of society will act according to his agenda, to corroborate his theory, so he endows the average member of society with a wisdom that I do not think is average. He says this, for example, in On Liberty: he argues that if you give people certain freedoms, they will use this towards social progress, and that they will not misuse the freedom. However, I think he overestimates the wisdom of the individual and underestimates the importance of culture. It is interesting to do a comparative reading of Mill's On Liberty and Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy. You find that in Arnold there is much less faith in the individual and much more emphasis on culture, and not freedoms per se, helping the individual to reach his best self -- Arnold invests culture with much more power than Mill invests the educated minority.

I have only read On Liberty, but I gather from Wikipedia that in On Utilitarianism, Mill not only says that happiness is pleasure over pain, but also that people will gravitate towards intellectual and moral pleasure over physical pleasure. I disagree with this second step, this faith in the average member of society. I think it is necessary that there is a strong culture that guides the individual toward this conclusion.

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2009, 08:13:30 PM »
Mill also says that true and false arguments collide to reinforce the true arguments, but I don't think that freedom of speech in itself is necessarily progressive. I think that freedom of speech can be misused to create a bad culture, and this is why attention should be paid not only to freedom as an end in itself, but also to culture as a guiding influence. Freedom of speech is a due freedom in my mind -- don't get me wrong -- but I just don't think it's necessarily progressive, without a good culture. Mill instead seems to think that freedom of speech is necessarily progressive, and I disagree.

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2009, 08:16:58 PM »
Thankfully I only posted this for myself. Otherwise, I might have to read this unreasonably long post. Please: use word efficiency.

MM, I predicted you would make a childish response like this. You state your propositions conditionally -- for instance, "this could be considered beneficial" -- thus removing your ownership of the proposition. This way, when you get proven wrong, just as I proved you wrong, you can disown your proposition and say "I never said that! I'm not wrong!" This is just another example of you doing this. But this time I preempted your disownership of the proposition, by predicting it, so instead you gave a "tl;dr". I actually predicted in my mind, after making my post, that you would do that. Your method of argument is incredibly dishonest and juvenile.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 08:20:15 PM by Ender »

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2009, 09:02:49 PM »
MM, I predicted you would make a childish response like this.
Congratulations?

You state your propositions conditionally -- for instance, "this could be considered beneficial" -- thus removing your ownership of the proposition. This way, when you get proven wrong, just as I proved you wrong, you can disown your proposition and say "I never said that! I'm not wrong!" This is just another example of you doing this. But this time I preempted your disownership of the proposition, by predicting it, so instead you gave a "tl;dr". I actually predicted in my mind, after making my post, that you would do that. Your method of argument is incredibly dishonest and juvenile.
Or, I have responsibilities that take priority over lengthy, fruitless internet debates.

lol, usually you resort to the more graceful ways of being a coward. however here you are so stumped for measures to take that you resort to contradicting your own principles!

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2009, 09:16:45 PM »
MM, I predicted you would make a childish response like this.
Congratulations?

You state your propositions conditionally -- for instance, "this could be considered beneficial" -- thus removing your ownership of the proposition. This way, when you get proven wrong, just as I proved you wrong, you can disown your proposition and say "I never said that! I'm not wrong!" This is just another example of you doing this. But this time I preempted your disownership of the proposition, by predicting it, so instead you gave a "tl;dr". I actually predicted in my mind, after making my post, that you would do that. Your method of argument is incredibly dishonest and juvenile.
Or, I have responsibilities that take priority over lengthy, fruitless internet debates.

lol, usually you resort to the more graceful ways of being a coward. however here you are so stumped for measures to take that you resort to contradicting your own principles!

And you usually use big words to sound smart, but quite often act like an idiot!  Oh wait, that's the same as you're doing here.

Actually you're completely wrong, and oftentimes all I notice from you are empty witticisms, devoid of meaning, meant only to reassert, ceremoniously, the wit that is Blaze[x86].

By the way, this is how I normally write. I have written 35 pages' worth of essays in the past five days (constituting three essays), and that is how I write in them too. Maybe I just read a lot, and have a good vocabulary? It's funny how you support MM by giving yet another conspiracy theory -- that everything I write on this forum is unnaturally verbose for the effect of undermining other people. Yeah, why don't you two just go to a conspiracy theory convention?


Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2009, 09:17:16 PM »
Blaze, I am sorry for being harsh, but you stepped into the lion's den.

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2009, 09:43:38 PM »
... for a continuation of the discussion between Sidoh and myself in a more impartial environment.

Question for consideration (and background): John Stuart Mill, a preeminent 19th-century British philosopher, seems to think that freedom of speech is necessarily progressive. He thinks that true and false statements collide to reinforce the true statement, and to even empower the true statement in the aspect of Durkheimian ceremony. However, Matthew Arnold, a contemporary of Mill's, argues that freedom is not an end in itself, and cannot be justified as such. Instead, there needs to be a strong culture that guides freedom of speech and its subjects toward social progress. For instance, Mill thinks of progress as intellectual and moral achievement. Arnold says that the intellectual and moral need to be emphasized by culture; Mill thinks they will arise on their own out of liberty.

Do you think freedom of speech is an end in its own, or rather, a means to an end, that end being social progress? Do you think that we need a strong culture to guide this freedom, and its subjects, toward social progress? In light of this, what do you think of today's culture, both in its own right and compared to past cultures? Does it play its proper role in guiding freedom of speech?

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2009, 10:04:11 PM »
By the way, there is no prerequisite for reading one or both of the authors in order to post. You don't have to, either. I think the prompt (above) suffices for background, at least for the purpose of this thread. I would change the thread title to "Freedom of Speech" but I can't without modifying each post individually =(

Edit: lol actually I found you can do this easily if you mod two forums. Move it to another forum and check "change this thread's subject" and "change every message's subject". Then move it back.

Off Topic is so useful : )
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 10:06:41 PM by Ender »

Offline Sidoh

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #11 on: March 18, 2009, 10:32:25 PM »
I'm not sure I'm comfortable conceding that something should be or should not be based only on its effect on social progress.  I will agree that this is an important consideration, but I don't think I agree that it's an ultimate end.

Maybe we should start off by hardening some concepts, though.  What is meant by social progress?  Does this involve advances in science, more sensible and stable policies, etc?  Is there a succinct definition for the concept that Arnold uses?

Offline truste1

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #12 on: March 18, 2009, 10:33:52 PM »
oh oh where's that thread I posted sometime ago?
Ain't Life Grand?

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2009, 11:31:37 PM »
I'm not sure I'm comfortable conceding that something should be or should not be based only on its effect on social progress.  I will agree that this is an important consideration, but I don't think I agree that it's an ultimate end.

Maybe we should start off by hardening some concepts, though.  What is meant by social progress?  Does this involve advances in science, more sensible and stable policies, etc?  Is there a succinct definition for the concept that Arnold uses?

Arnold actually doesn't say social progress. He uses an end that's a bit more vague -- though vagueness leaves interpretation / flexibility... not always bad.

He says that culture is the pursuit of perfection. He says that everyone has a "best self", and that culture strives to evoke this "best self" in every individual person. He doesn't necessarily say that the best self can be achieved, but that we can continually mould ourselves into something that is closer and closer to it. It is like a limit point.

Culture is then an end in itself. Arnold differentiates between what is a means to an end, and what is an end in itself. He gives a laundry list of things that are just means to an end, which he labels "machinery" -- technology and freedom are two such things. However, the two concepts that are ends in themselves -- the only two -- are culture and the State. The State has this status because it helps diffuse culture.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 11:41:12 PM by Ender »

Offline Ender

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Re: Freedom of Speech
« Reply #14 on: March 18, 2009, 11:32:45 PM »
Thus I was misleading when I said social progress. The end is really an individual thing, not a social thing. Though social progress is obviously a byproduct of culture -- if you improve all the individuals, society improves.

To be more concrete (I realize this is the second part of your question) I think that Arnold's personal bias (he was a poet, academic, and intellectual) would imply that the "best self" is necessarily moral and intellectual. Thus culture would include advances in the arts, sciences, and public policies.

Would culture homogenize, and violate liberties? I think some degree of homogenization is a necessary part of any culture, good or bad, but there would be plenty of room for individualization. And are liberties really that sacred anyway? Obviously culture would not be 1984-ish. It would be more like Renaissance ideals. But liberties are not that sacred anyway, IMO. I agree with them, but think of how they go to waste in the vast majority of the population.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2009, 11:40:45 PM by Ender »