This week, we speak with Nigel Warburton about Free Speech today, and its first great defender John Stuart Mill.
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S1 E12: John Stuart Mill and Free Speech
“John Stuart Mill would be the kind of person who would argue for following people with whom you strongly disagree because they’re the ones that are gonna make you think.”
Turi talks with the philosopher Nigel Warburton about free speech and its foundational text - John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859).
Today, all sides of the political spectrum decry attacks on their free expression.
Led by Donal Trump, the Right attacks the social networks for expelling them, and mainstream media for spreading lies about them. The Left attacks the systemic inequality of speech - how the white, rich and male dominate column inches. Even the Centrist signatories of the Harpers Letter feel their ability to debate has been shut down by no-platforming and cancel culture.
Nigel Warburton takes us back to the earliest defence of free speech, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty , to discuss what makes it so foundational to our polities and democracies, and why it’s such a tricky notion to define.
Listen to Nigel and Turi discuss:
- the Marketplace of Ideas (and its problems)
- ‘dead dogma’: why ideas need contesting to stay alive
- why ‘civility’ in debate is over-rated
- ‘Epistemic Injustice’ and why some people’s views aren’t taken seriously
- why Mill thought you need a diverse society to build the breeding ground for Genius.
- the Tyranny of the Majority: and why the wrong kind of free speech is so dangerous
“Free speech isn’t an absolute - it’s something which we need to rethink almost all the time in relation to every sort of case that emerges””
Nigel is a writer, philosopher and podcaster. He is interviewer for the popular Philosophy Bites podcast. His books include A Little History of Philosophy, The Art Question and Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction. He recently joined the Founding Faculty of the London Interdisciplinary School (LIS), and a Consultant Senior Editor at Aeon and the Philosophy Editor at 5 Books.
Transcript is here
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