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Can’t Say Anything Anymore

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Image Credit Some claim that political correctness has gone to far and that one cannot say anything anymore. As evidence, people point to examples of celebrities who have gotten in trouble for saying things that some regard as racist, homophobic or sexist. They also point to existence of trigger warnings, safe spaces and cases in which speakers on the right have been harassed or denied the chance to speak. While the moral right of free expression and the legal right of the first amendment should be protected vigorously, there is the question of whether it is true that one can’t say anything anymore. By this people do not mean that they cannot say what they want; their concern is with the consequences if they do so. My view on free expression is a stock adoption of Mill’s principle of harm: a person is free to say what they will and the only thing that warrants limiting this liberty is to protect others from harm. As I have argued in past essays, I do not consider offensive speech to be harmful in a way that warrants restricting it. I do admit that there is a large grey area between expression that should clearly be restricted (such as the famous yelling of “fire”) and expressions that should not. I am happy to debate about what things I see as gray should be moved one direction or the other, but I adopt a principle of erring on the side of freedom in cases of doubt and place the burden of proof on those who would restrict the liberty of expression. In fact, I encourage people to freely express whatever hateful views they might have—that way everyone else can know what sort of person they are. That said, I am aware of an obvious problem. The problem is, of course, sorting out whether the harm generated by expression warrants restricting that expression. As noted above, I hold to a relatively high bar—what is merely offensive, insulting, enraging and so on should not be restricted. My view here is analogous to my view on same sex marriage: some people. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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