There's No Such Thing as Free Speech: And It's a Good Thing, Too

There's No Such Thing as Free Speech: And It's a Good Thing, Too



The Pequod Review:

There's No Such Thing as Free Speech is a collection of essays and speeches on a variety of culture war issues (free speech, multiculturalism, affirmative action, etc.), many of them drawn from Stanley Fish's 1990s campus debates with Dinesh D'Souza. Don't hold his choice of a debating partner against him though; these are deeply rational pieces that perceptively reveal fundamental inconsistencies of logic on both the left and right:

Any such view [in favor of free speech] will require that you specify the "good" whose protection or emergence will be promoted by a regime of free speech; but once such a good has been specified—be it the discovery of truth, or the realization of individual cognitive potential, or the facilitation of democratic process (the three most popular candidates put forward in the literature)—it becomes possible to argue that a particular form of speech, rather than contributing to the realization, will undermine and subvert it. This is so because in a consequentialist argument freedom of speech is not identical with the good but is in the service of the good; it is not a prime but a subordinate value, and when its claims conflict with those of its superior, it must give way. What this means is that insofar as you hold to a consequentialist view of free speech—insofar as you have an answer to the question "What is free speech for?"—you are already committed to finding in a particular situation that speech with certain undesirable effects should not be tolerated; and what that means in turn is that there is no such thing as free speech.

The book is unfortunately somewhat poorly organized, however it is well-argued throughout. Recommended.