Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition

Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition

Jonathan Rauch

Language: English

Pages: 216

ISBN: 022614593X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

“A liberal society stands on the proposition that we should all take seriously the idea that we might be wrong. This means we must place no one, including ourselves, beyond the reach of criticism; it means that we must allow people to err, even where the error offends and upsets, as it often will.” So writes Jonathan Rauch in Kindly Inquisitors, which has challenged readers for more than twenty years with its bracing and provocative exploration of the issues surrounding attempts to limit free speech. In it, Rauch makes a persuasive argument for the value of “liberal science” and the idea that conflicting views produce knowledge within society.
In this expanded edition of Kindly Inquisitors, a new foreword by George F. Will strikingly shows the book’s continued relevance, while a substantial new afterword by Rauch elaborates upon his original argument and brings it fully up to date. Two decades after the book’s initial publication, while some progress has been made, the regulation of hate speech has grown domestically—especially in American universities—and has spread even more internationally, where there is no First Amendment to serve as a meaningful check. But the answer to bias and prejudice, Rauch argues, is pluralism—not purism. Rather than attempting to legislate bias and prejudice out of existence or to drive them underground, we must pit them against one another to foster a more vigorous and fruitful discussion. It is this process that has been responsible for the growing acceptance of the moral acceptability of homosexuality over the last twenty years. And it is this process, Rauch argues, that will enable us as a society to replace hate with knowledge, both ethical and empirical.
“It is a melancholy fact that this elegant book, which is slender and sharp as a stiletto, is needed, now even more than two decades ago. Armed with it, readers can slice through the pernicious ideas that are producing the still-thickening thicket of rules, codes, and regulations restricting freedom of thought and expression.”—George F. Will, from the foreword

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made a hobby of harassing the unorthodox for centuries. The surprise was that the reply from the liberal democracies was muttered and utterly incoherent. A long week of silence passed before President George Bush got around to saying, unimpressively, that the death decree was "deeply offensive. " The Japanese government NEW THREATS TO FREE THOUGHT 21 said, "Mentioning and encouraging murder is not something to be praised." In the end the Rushdie affair showed us graphically two things, one

But no such honest admission, and therefore no clear defense, was forthcoming. People often did not seem even to know what it was-free speech? religious liberty? nonviolence? respect for other cultures?-that they were defending. They certainly seemed not to understand the principles upon which the liberal intellectual system is based. A lot of people seemed to have the impression that the Western intellectual system is a kind of anything-goes pluralism in which all ways of believing are created

scene of the crime? By definition, then, if we take the empirical rule (no personal authority) seriously , revelation cannot be the basis for fact, because it is not publicly available . Similarly, attempts to claim a special kind of experience or checking for any particular person or kind of person-male or female, black or white, tall or short-are strictly illicit. After a woman was raped by a gang of teenagers in New York City, the Reverend Al Sharpton said that there was no proof that a rape

hypothesized that, on average, blacks' reproductive strategy tends to emphasize high birthrates, Asians' tends toward intensive parental nurturing, and whites' tends to fall in between. The man was vilified in the press, he was denounced on national television (to his face) as a neo-Nazi, and his graduate students were advised to find a new mentor. That was not all. The Ontario provincial police promptly launched a six-month investigation of Rushton under Canada's hate-speech prohibition. They

kind of high-prestige confirmation which only the science game, in a liberal society, can proVide. And that kind of confirmation you cannot have. Moreover, the science game seems to extend its reach every day : so much so, that to elbow it aside you may feel you need to do what Khomeini or the Saudis or the Reverend Jim Jones did and shut out the world . Contrary to what many have said, liberal science does not obliterate the world of the soul and the spirit. It does, however, delimit it and then

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