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In Praise of Eccentricity:
Why Authentic Freedom of Speech Benefits All of Us
(according to John Stuart Mill)
2016 LaCroix...
Atlantic Monthly, September 2016
“The Coddling of the American Mind”
Cover Story from Atlantic 9/2016
• “SOMETHING STRANGE IS happening at America’s colleges and universities. A
movement is a...
What Would John Stuart Mill Say?
What are the proper limits of free speech?
John Stuart Mill On Free Speech
I. Liberty - Society Benefit – Eccentricity
II. Contemporary Concerns about Limits of Libe...
Utilitarianism: Benefit Society
• “The utilitarian morality does recognise in
human beings the power of sacrificing their
...
Human Nature: Progressive Beings
• “Human nature is not a machine to be built
after a model, and set to do exactly the wor...
Tyranny of Opinion vs. Eccentricity
• “In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the
mere refusal to bend the knee ...
Eccentric:
• Different
• Odd
• Peculiar
• Atypical
• Unusual
• Unexpected
• Not Normal or Customary
What kind of Liberty/Freedom?
• Of Thought
• Of Association
• Of Speech
• Limits: “that the sole end for which mankind are...
We may not limit someone’s freedom:
1. For His own good, either physical or moral
2. because it will be better for him to ...
Minority Opinion
Why Liberty?
1. We Shouldn’t Assume Infallibility
• “However, positive anyone's persuasion may
be, not only of the faculty...
Why Liberty?: 2. Social Benefit
• “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an
opinion is, that it is robbing the ...
Echo Chambers
Why Liberty? 3. Hearing the Other side
• He who knows only his own side of the case knows
little of that. His reasons may ...
4. Wisdom Comes from Hearing
Variety of Viewpoints
• “the only way in which a human being can
make some approach to knowin...
From On Subjection of Women:
3. Administration Censorship
• Trigger Warnings & Safe Spaces
• Firing
• Disinviting
• Preventing discourse
• Limiting fre...
• Chair of M.U. Philosophy Department: “Your
office door is not a free speech zone” (2006)
Marquette suspends McAdams
McAdams sues Marquette
• Prof. McAdams publically blogged critically
about a female graduate st...
• John Ellison, dean of students wrote all 2016 U of
Chicago incoming Freshman a letter which set off a
firestorm of criti...
2. Students Censoring Campus
WSJ Poll: 51% students want to limit free speech
A few in 2015 alone:
• Robin Steinberg was d...
More Student Protests
• Yale: Students demanded removal of two professors in part over professors saying students should
b...
May, 2016
• Janet Mock, a black transgender activist and author,
cancelled an upcoming appearance at Brown
University afte...
July 2016
• 300 students at Elon University have signed a
petition asking the school to disinvite a
conservative Pulitzer ...
What Would Mill Say?
• It is important to hear opinions you think you
disagree with on campus, especially if the
presentat...
3. Outside Groups Censorship:
Alums and Government
• UC was pressured to adopt extreme speech
restraints for students:
• U...
4. Professors Self-Censorship
• “About a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions
have told me that the...
5. Religious Freedom
In 2010, Pope Benedict addressed the British Parliament, concerned for
what he saw as the government’...
“Secular” (?)
• A: Impartial, no ‘State church’, neutral
• B: Do not allow public religious expression
(private only)
• Mo...
Outside Pressures On Schools
• Gordon College (MA) a small Protestant School
• President of Gordon reaffirmed their stance...
10 religious liberty threats for Christian
higher education
1. Accreditation issues
2. Tax issues
3. Financial issues
4. D...
6. Intellectual Discussions:
Trans/Radical Feminist Debate
• Issue: “Woman”
Conclusion 1. Be sensitive about
others, but don’t be oversensitive:
• “Some recent campus actions border on the surreal. ...
2. Try to Understand Points of View
You Don’t Think You Agree With, and
Listen to Many Voices
3. Value Eccentricity, Experiments In
Living, New Ways of Thinking…
• “As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect th...
4. Get Comfortable With What You
Believe, With Possibly Being Wrong,
And With Disagreeing with Others
• Kenny Volante: My ...
5. Support Others Right to Free
Speech, Thought, and Association
6. Whatever Your Ideas, Try to Avoid
Being Puritanical About them, and Be
As Fair as Possible
• The Hecklers Veto: Puritan...
7. Civil Discourse Should Be Civil
(Ethics regarding behavior towards others
should apply especially in debate) people.
• ...
8. Jesuit Universities Have a Tradition
Which in Many Respects Actually
Enables A Wider Discourse
• UNL: Discounted Religi...
In Praise of Eccentricity:
Why Authentic Freedom of Speech Benefits All of Us
(according to John Stuart Mill)
2016 LaCroix...
Some Relevant Sources/Articles
• http://www.jameskirchick.com/2015/02/26/rock-paper-scissors-pc-victimology/
• https://www...
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In Praise of Eccentricity: Why Authentic Free Speech Benefits all of Us (According to JS Mill)

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Here is a basic presentation on Mill's view of freed speech in relation to recent free speech issues and events on campuses across the country.

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In Praise of Eccentricity: Why Authentic Free Speech Benefits all of Us (According to JS Mill)

  1. 1. In Praise of Eccentricity: Why Authentic Freedom of Speech Benefits All of Us (according to John Stuart Mill) 2016 LaCroix Lecture, Rockhurst U. Andy Gustafson, Creighton University
  2. 2. Atlantic Monthly, September 2016 “The Coddling of the American Mind”
  3. 3. Cover Story from Atlantic 9/2016 • “SOMETHING STRANGE IS happening at America’s colleges and universities. A movement is arising, undirected and driven largely by students, to scrub campuses clean of words, ideas, and subjects that might cause discomfort or give offense. Last December, Jeannie Suk wrote in an online article for The New Yorker about law students asking her fellow professors at Harvard not to teach rape law—or, in one case, even use the word violate (as in “that violates the law”) lest it cause students distress. In February, Laura Kipnis, a professor at Northwestern University, wrote an essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education describing a new campus politics of sexual paranoia—and was then subjected to a long investigation after students who were offended by the article and by a tweet she’d sent filed Title IX complaints against her. In June, a professor protecting himself with a pseudonym wrote an essay for Vox describing how gingerly he now has to teach. “I’m a Liberal Professor, and My Liberal Students Terrify Me,” the headline said. A number of popular comedians, including Chris Rock, have stopped performing on college campuses (see Caitlin Flanagan’s article in this month’s issue). Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Maher have publicly condemned the oversensitivity of college students, saying too many of them can’t take a joke.”
  4. 4. What Would John Stuart Mill Say? What are the proper limits of free speech?
  5. 5. John Stuart Mill On Free Speech I. Liberty - Society Benefit – Eccentricity II. Contemporary Concerns about Limits of Liberty 1. University Administration Censorship 2. Students Censorship 3. External parties (alum, government) Censorship 4. Religious 5. Intellectual debates (Trans/RadFems) III. Conclusions
  6. 6. Utilitarianism: Benefit Society • “The utilitarian morality does recognise in human beings the power of sacrificing their own greatest good for the good of others. It only refuses to admit that the sacrifice is itself a good. A sacrifice which does not increase, or tend to increase, the sum total of happiness, it considers as wasted.” (Mill, Utilitarianism)
  7. 7. Human Nature: Progressive Beings • “Human nature is not a machine to be built after a model, and set to do exactly the work prescribed for it, but a tree, which requires to grow and develope itself on all sides, according to the tendency of the inward forces which make it a living thing.”
  8. 8. Tyranny of Opinion vs. Eccentricity • “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.” (JS Mill, “On Liberty”)
  9. 9. Eccentric: • Different • Odd • Peculiar • Atypical • Unusual • Unexpected • Not Normal or Customary
  10. 10. What kind of Liberty/Freedom? • Of Thought • Of Association • Of Speech • Limits: “that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self- protection.” And additionally, “That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”
  11. 11. We may not limit someone’s freedom: 1. For His own good, either physical or moral 2. because it will be better for him to do so 3. because it will make him happier 4. because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. It is perfectly fine to try to convince, reason with, attempt to persuade or beg someone to change, but no one should be compelled.
  12. 12. Minority Opinion
  13. 13. Why Liberty? 1. We Shouldn’t Assume Infallibility • “However, positive anyone's persuasion may be, not only of the faculty but of the pernicious consequences, but (to adopt expressions which I [Mill] altogether condemn) the immorality and impiety of opinion. – yet if, in pursuance of that private judgement, though backed by the public judgement of his country or contemporaries, he prevents the opinion from being heard in its defence, he assumes infallibility.”
  14. 14. Why Liberty?: 2. Social Benefit • “The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”
  15. 15. Echo Chambers
  16. 16. Why Liberty? 3. Hearing the Other side • He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion... Nor is it enough that he should hear the opinions of adversaries from his own teachers, presented as they state them, and accompanied by what they offer as refutations. He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them...he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
  17. 17. 4. Wisdom Comes from Hearing Variety of Viewpoints • “the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.”
  18. 18. From On Subjection of Women:
  19. 19. 3. Administration Censorship • Trigger Warnings & Safe Spaces • Firing • Disinviting • Preventing discourse • Limiting free speech zones
  20. 20. • Chair of M.U. Philosophy Department: “Your office door is not a free speech zone” (2006)
  21. 21. Marquette suspends McAdams McAdams sues Marquette • Prof. McAdams publically blogged critically about a female graduate student T.A. who referred to one of her student’s objections to state sanction of gay marriage as “homophobic”
  22. 22. • John Ellison, dean of students wrote all 2016 U of Chicago incoming Freshman a letter which set off a firestorm of criticism. In it he wrote: • "Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial and we do not condone the creation of intellectual safe spaces where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own,"
  23. 23. 2. Students Censoring Campus WSJ Poll: 51% students want to limit free speech A few in 2015 alone: • Robin Steinberg was disinvited from Harvard Law School • Rapper Common was disinvited from Kean University • Suzanne Venker was disinvited from Williams College • Asra Nomani student attempts to cancel her speech • UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks participated in an event on his own campus that student protestors shut down. • Speakers at USC needed police to intervene to continue an event. • Angela Davis: petition attempted to prevent her from speaking at Texas Tech. • Rapper Big Sean faced a student effort to get him disinvited from Princeton. • Bob McCulloch student effort to disinvite him from speaking at St. Louis U. • William Ayers: an effort to disinvite him from Dickinson School of Law. • Harold Koh: student effort to oust him at New York University Law School.
  24. 24. More Student Protests • Yale: Students demanded removal of two professors in part over professors saying students should be allowed to choose their own halloween costumes. • Missouri law studentspassed a speech code that Above the Law called Orwellian. • Amherst: students called for a speech code so broad that it would’ve sanctioned students for making an “All Lives Matter” poster. • At Duke, student activists demanded disciplinary sanctions for students who attend “culturally insensitive” parties, mandatory implicit-bias training for all professors, and loss of the possibility of tenure if a faculty member engages in speech “if the discriminatory attitudes behind the speech,” as determined by an unnamed adjudicator, “could potentially harm the academic achievements of students of color.” • At Emory, student activists demanded that student evaluations include a field to report a faculty member’s micro aggressions to help ensure that there are repercussions or sanctions, and that the social network Yik Yak be banished from campus. • Activists at Wesleyan trashed their student newspaper then pushed to get it defunded because they disagreed with an op-ed that criticized Black Lives Matter. • Dartmouth University students demanded the expulsion of fraternities that throw parties deemed racist and the forced a student newspaper to change its name.
  25. 25. May, 2016 • Janet Mock, a black transgender activist and author, cancelled an upcoming appearance at Brown University after left-leaning students protested her decision to speak– not because of her, but because of the venue: Hillel– the nations largest Jewish student organization (which supports Israel). The students urged Mock to speak on campus at some other event, disconnected from Hillel. Instead, she chose to cancel her appearance entirely. A spokesperson for Mock lamented that she "was received with controversy and resistance rather than open dialogue and discussion."
  26. 26. July 2016 • 300 students at Elon University have signed a petition asking the school to disinvite a conservative Pulitzer Prize–winning author, Kathleen Parker, from speaking on their campus in October.
  27. 27. What Would Mill Say? • It is important to hear opinions you think you disagree with on campus, especially if the presentation involves a forum for open discussion, such as Q &A. • Using free speech to protest and limit free speech by not listening to eccentric or other opinions will eventually undermine society
  28. 28. 3. Outside Groups Censorship: Alums and Government • UC was pressured to adopt extreme speech restraints for students: • Univ. Regent Richard Blum, the multi-millionaire defense contractor who is married to Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California expressly threatened that Feinstein would publicly denounce the university if it failed to adopt far more stringent standards than the ones it appeared to be considering, and specifically demanded they be binding and contain punishments for students found to be in violation.
  29. 29. 4. Professors Self-Censorship • “About a dozen new teachers of criminal law at multiple institutions have told me that they are not including rape law in their courses, arguing that it’s not worth the risk of complaints of discomfort by students,” Jeannie Suk (Harvard) wrote. “Even seasoned teachers of criminal law, at law schools across the country, have confided that they are seriously considering dropping rape law and other topics related to sex and gender violence. Both men and women teachers seem frightened of discussion, because they are afraid of injuring others or being injured themselves.” • She attributes the fear in part to a sense among the public that frank discussions of sexual assault equate to a kind of “second rape,” or public retraumatization. • Suk says that “more than ever, it is critical that law students develop the ability to engage productively and analytically in conversations about sexual assault. …If the topic of sexual assault were to leave the law-school classroom, it would be a tremendous loss— above all to victims of sexual assault." • (Inside Higher Ed., 12/17/14)
  30. 30. 5. Religious Freedom In 2010, Pope Benedict addressed the British Parliament, concerned for what he saw as the government’s increasing restrictions and pressures on religion.
  31. 31. “Secular” (?) • A: Impartial, no ‘State church’, neutral • B: Do not allow public religious expression (private only) • More and more, “separation of church and state” means “no religion in the public square”
  32. 32. Outside Pressures On Schools • Gordon College (MA) a small Protestant School • President of Gordon reaffirmed their stance that homosexual practice is wrong (2015). • In Response: The City of Salem, Mass., citing the college's policies about gay people, killed a contract under which Gordon has operated the city's historic Old Town Hall. And Gordon's accreditor, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, announced it was reviewing whether Gordon's policies violate NEASC's anti-bias rules, which explicitly bar discrimination based on sexual orientation. In September, the agency gave the college one year to prove that its policies meet NEASC’s standards for nondiscrimination.
  33. 33. 10 religious liberty threats for Christian higher education 1. Accreditation issues 2. Tax issues 3. Financial issues 4. Donor issues 5. External relations issues 6. Student issues 7. Community issues 8. Recruiting and retention issues 9. Employment issues 10. Doctrinal issues • http://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/the-top-10-religious-liberty-threats-for-christian-higher-education
  34. 34. 6. Intellectual Discussions: Trans/Radical Feminist Debate • Issue: “Woman”
  35. 35. Conclusion 1. Be sensitive about others, but don’t be oversensitive: • “Some recent campus actions border on the surreal. In April, at Brandeis University, the Asian American student association sought to raise awareness of microaggressions against Asians through an installation on the steps of an academic hall. The installation gave examples of microaggressions such as “Aren’t you supposed to be good at math?” and “I’m colorblind! I don’t see race.” But a backlash arose among other Asian American students, who felt that the display itself was a microaggression. The association removed the installation, and its president wrote an e-mail to the entire student body apologizing to anyone who was “triggered or hurt by the content of the microaggressions.”” (The Atlantic, 2016)
  36. 36. 2. Try to Understand Points of View You Don’t Think You Agree With, and Listen to Many Voices
  37. 37. 3. Value Eccentricity, Experiments In Living, New Ways of Thinking… • “As it is useful that while mankind are imperfect there should be different opinions, so is it that there should be different experiments of living; that free scope should be given to varieties of character, short of injury to others; and that the worth of different modes of life should be proved practically, when any one thinks fit to try them. It is desirable, in short, that in things which do not primarily concern others, individuality should assert itself” • Homeless Spring Break • Lived in 1954 Cadillac spring semester Junior Yr • Lived in mud hut in Zaire for 3 weeks in village
  38. 38. 4. Get Comfortable With What You Believe, With Possibly Being Wrong, And With Disagreeing with Others • Kenny Volante: My Marxist, Atheist, Vegan Buddhist Friend
  39. 39. 5. Support Others Right to Free Speech, Thought, and Association
  40. 40. 6. Whatever Your Ideas, Try to Avoid Being Puritanical About them, and Be As Fair as Possible • The Hecklers Veto: Puritanical Ideologies Without Opposition • As James Kirchick recently wrote, “Twitter, however, puts the burden of proof on the defendant, making it very hard to defend oneself against the 8-word tweet that uses a hot-button word to slime whoever becomes the target of the mob’s ire. It’s Salem, with 21st-century technology. And sooner or later, we will all become witches.”
  41. 41. 7. Civil Discourse Should Be Civil (Ethics regarding behavior towards others should apply especially in debate) people. • Mill: “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other”
  42. 42. 8. Jesuit Universities Have a Tradition Which in Many Respects Actually Enables A Wider Discourse • UNL: Discounted Religion • Protestant Seminary: Discounted Atheism • Jesuit Education at Fordham and Marquette: Took all points of view seriously, and was very open to religious and non-religious points of view.
  43. 43. In Praise of Eccentricity: Why Authentic Freedom of Speech Benefits All of Us (according to John Stuart Mill) 2016 LaCroix Lecture, Rockhurst U. Andy Gustafson, Creighton University andrewgustafson@creighton.edu
  44. 44. Some Relevant Sources/Articles • http://www.jameskirchick.com/2015/02/26/rock-paper-scissors-pc-victimology/ • https://www.thenation.com/article/this-professor-was-fired-for-saying-fuck-no-in-class/ • http://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/29205844.html • http://www.feministcurrent.com/2015/11/10/why-i-no-longer-hate-terfs/ • http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/not-a-very-pc-thing-to-say.html • http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10195151/Why-has-feminism-become- obsessed-with-censoring-the-enemy.html • http://grantland.com/features/a-mysterious-physicist-golf-club-dr-v/ • http://grantland.com/features/what-grantland-got-wrong/ • http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/28/it-s-time-for-gays-to-forgive-chick-fil-a.html • https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/3eb5c810-da17-33f4-93d7-8cb26335dbe7/ss_in-jim- cooley%E2%80%99s-open-carry.html • http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-24/donnelly-criticising-safe-schools-doesn't-make-you- homophobic/7272932 • http://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/11/free-speech-is-so-last-century-todays-students-want-the- right-to-be-comfortable/ • http://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/the-top-10-religious-liberty-threats-for-christian-higher- education

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