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< Back to question Does the marketplace of ideas work? Show more Show less

The 'marketplace of ideas' theory argues that truth is found where opinions intersect. It is the figurative arena in which all can share their opinions, subjecting them to rational, public debate. In the same way that quality goods and services rise to the top in a free market economy, so this theory sees ideas as subject to the same rigorous competition. Popular ideas are considered "truths" insofar as they rise on the back of reason. These truths are essential for society to progress. Does the marketplace of ideas work?

No, the marketplace of ideas does not work Show more Show less

The marketplace of ideas is based on an idealistic conception of society, which means in practice it cannot work.
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The marketplace of ideas has a naive view of social progress

If it worked, society would not repeat its mistakes. That alone is proof that the idea has no legs to stand on.
ethics marketplace of ideas philosophy politics society
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The Argument

Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Even when presented with proof that one idea is more effective than another, the same arguments arise again. This is deeply problematic in the context of society. If all opinions can be shared at any time, there is nothing to stop the emergence of a new slavery lobby, the legalization of human trafficking, or other insidious practices that have been rightly criminalised. Censorship of ideas that society has collectively condemned, is necessary for social progress.

Counter arguments

Western progress in civil rights, economic principles, and liberty show that when opinions are given air to be debated, the truth almost always prevails and humanity moves forward. Sound arguments and truth languish without alternatives by which they can be compared. Giving government the power to outlaw ideas deemed subjectively wrong threatens free speech. John Stuart Mill supported the notion of continually giving wrong opinions a stage so that the public might gain a “clearer perception and livelier interpretation of truth”.[1]


Rejecting the premises



This page was last edited on Friday, 31 Jul 2020 at 07:49 UTC

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