Kindly Inquisitors (1993) Jonathan Rauch
The inability to seriously entertain the possibility that one might be wrong
Argues that the best defense against hate speech, discrimination, and prejudice is the marketplace of ideas, that of “liberal science.” If the government is allowed to define what kind of speech is acceptable, where does it stop? The subjective nature of what is hateful or not creates a never ending litany of parties with potential speech grievances (I.e. using the N word vs. saying that Zionism is wrong and the Palestinians deserve their fair share). Explains why certain systems rely on authoritarian ideological conformity; because they have no other way to justify what they say (I.e. fundamentalist Islam and Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwa against Salman Rushdie, whom he genuinely felt as an aggressor that wanted to tear down Iranian and Islamic society). Liberal Science is not an all encompassing solution; it does not provide for human virtue or belief systems. But, it is the best system that has been devised to produce the most progress for society and ideas, be they actually scientific or otherwise. From preface (George Will), “The unvarnished truth is that some people derive intense pleasure from bossing around other people. The fact that they also may really believe they are improving the people who are under their thumb or are improving the world does not make them kindly.” Liberal science allows for freedom of belief and speech, but rejects freedom of knowledge; we reject prayer as an effective means to treat medical ailments. “To ban books or words which cretins find exciting is to let the very lowest among us determine what we may read or hear.” “In the 1980s it began to be commonplace for activists and intellectuals to conspicuously take offense. Here, there, everywhere, they were offended…As more and more people realized that they could win concessions and moral victories by being offended, more and more offended people became activists.” This, a premonition of Shant Mesrobian’s “Performative Radicalism.” “…as soon as people learn they can get something if they raise Cain about being offended, they go into the business of professional offendedness.” “…the liberal intellectual system, whatever else it may be, is not ‘nice.’” Offense can be caused in an open marketplace where we seek the truth; if you are unhealthy and are told you might benefit by eating some broccoli and doing some exercise, you may be offended by such true advice. “[Liberal science” does not give a damn about your feelings and happily tramples them in the name of finding truth… To advance knowledge, we must all sometimes suffer.” “…any fundamentalist system for settling differences of opinion — is the enemy of free thought.” Whether religious fundamentalism or anti-racist fundamentalism, one-way interpretations of the entire World and everything in it. “[The humanitarian challenge] leads to the doctrine that people should be punished for holding false or dangerous beliefs. It leads, in other words, toward an inquisition.” Liberal science is “disorienting” ”unsettling” and can legitimately cause pain and create losers — the author acknowledges all of this, “open-ended, decentralized decision-making systems are perpetually unsettling.” VS Naipaul, Christian fundamentalist, “In the modern view, the world is just one damned thing after another. A horrible worldview… that human beings cannot live with. It cannot last. It will destroy itself.” But, this is what must be born in the pursuit of truth, which is to everyone’s benefits, particularly minorities. “The fundamentalist temperament tends to search for certainty rather than for errors. The fundamentalist’s tendency is to nail his beliefs in place.” (Peirce) “[Fundamentalism] is about the inability to seriously entertain the possibility that one might be wrong.” Fundamentalists “show no interest in checking,” regardless of their beliefs. “’We are afraid of your ideas and of your customs. Which means that we fear you politically and socially.’”-Khomeini. “I do know that, during my long lifetime, I have always been right about what I said” -Khomeini. “Liberalism holds that knowledge comes only from a public process of critical exchange, in which the wise and the unwise alike participate.” Knowledge is a social process; moral error is burned away by public criticism. “…we are obsessed with debating how society ought to organize itself to create material product… but we ignore questions like, Who should decide what kind of questions to ask, what kind of research to do? The imbalance is bizarre… the greatest of all human products is our knowledge.” Given everyone has different experience, who decides what is true. “We must all take seriously the idea that any and all of us might, at any time, be wrong.” In a democracy, no one should get final say, and no one holds personal authority; knowledge is an ever-evolving process, defying people’s desires for certainty. No discussion is ever ended; sincere criticism should always be welcomed. “In a liberal scientific society, to claim that you are above error is the height of irresponsibility.” “From Locke, then, comes our public process for picking worthy beliefs… from him also comes the strongest of all arguments for the toleration of dissent… Locke preached the sermon which every generation learns with such difficulty and forgets with such ease: ‘We should do well to commiserate our mutual ignorance, and endeavor to remove it in all the gentle and fair ways of information, and not instantly treat others ill, as obstinate and perverse, because they will not renounce their own, and receive our opinions… For where is the man that has incontestable evidence of the truth of all that he holds, or of the falsehood of all he condemns?’ This, finally, is why the Constitution protects the speech of Nazis, Communists, racists, sexists, homophobes: they may be right. And, if they turn out to be wrong, it does us good to hear what they have to say so that we can criticize their beliefs and know why they are wrong.” “…people who are used to an authoritarian moral climate have such a hard time switching to the mechanisms of democracy and markets, and so often make a botch of it.” Similar line of reasoning here to Peterson on democratic societies slowly absorbing immigrants to assimilate the culture. “In liberal society, the impulse to stamp out wrong opinion — Plato’s impulse — is nothing less than the impulse to destroy knowledge itself.” “…liberal science does not obliterate the world of the soul and the spirit. it does, however, delimit it and then leave it alone. It does so because it must. The alternative is to put nonadjudicable private beliefs at the top of the public agenda… a critical intellectual system… sends us off to fill [our needs] privately as best we can. It is incomplete… as to providing for our souls.” From a professor’s letter, “’In my debates with the fundamentalist left, the main driving force seems to be a sense of impotence. So much that is so bad is going on, and they can do nothing. ‘If we can’t do this, what can we do?’” Governments have “monopolies on force” and “enormous repressive powers”; they must not stifle criticism. “When only one outcome can be legitimate, an open-ended, decentralized process is nothing more than a standing invitation to make the wrong decision. Who needs a selection process when the choice is obvious.” Thus, there is no question when belief is fixed. “… if you can’t fix the process, then fix the outcome… organize your group around a set of fixed beliefs…” “Those who know the truth should decide who is right”, the fundamentalist anointed. “In an orthodox community, the threat of social disintegration is never further away than the first dissenter.” Thus, crushing dissent in authoritarian climates is crucial; witnesseth the Soviet Union, and “Communist” China. “The us-versus-them mentality of fundamentalists all over the world is not the product of paranoia. It is the product of a clear understanding that central authority must be defended at all costs in an intellectual culture which has no other means to resolve its members’ disagreements.” Thus, there is only authority as a solution, there is no way to deduce one’s rightness through reason. “And so to call the fundamentalists nutty or irrational does them a profound injustice. When… [they] rise in rage… [or] shake their fists… they are acting in genuine self-defense. They are acting to stave off social and political chaos. That is what makes them so dangerous.” “The more I get around, the more deeply I am impressed that the gardens of human belief flower more exotically than any in nature”. “The greater threat lies in our letting down our guard against ourself: in high-mindedly embracing authoritarianism in the name of fairness and compassion, as the Marxists did.” Political bodies do not get to say what our knowledge is or is not; all knowledge does not deserve “equal time” at the bequest of centralized authorities; that is illiberal. Voting and agitating do not produce knowledge. “Respect is no opinion’s birthright.” Society does not respect Holocaust deniers, but they are free to make their claims. If we had “equal time” for every sincere belief, we would have to teach Holocaust Revisionism — equal time laws make marginalization illegal. “If you believe that a society is just only when it delivers more or less equal outcomes, you will think liberalism is unfair. You will insist on admitting everyone’s belief into respectability as knowledge. Or at least you will insist on admitting the beliefs of people whom you regard as oppressed — affirmative action for knowledge… [with]… fights over who gets what… [then] a knowledge-making system whose greatest virtue is its adaptiveness will turn sclerotic.” “A no-offense society is a no-knowledge society.” “A University of Michigan law professor said: ‘To me, racial epithets are not speech. They are bullets.’ This, finally, is where the humanitarian line leads: to the erasure of the distinction, in principle and ultimately also in practice, between discussion and bloodshed.” If speech are bullets, then it is okay for Khomeini to issue a fatwa against Rushdie to kill him. “The whole point of liberal science is that it substitutes criticism for force and violence.” Where does the line between bigotry and opinion exist? i.e. questioning if an individual has the capacity to choose homosexuality. Who gets to say who is right and wrong? McWhorter’s “The Elect,” Sowell’s “The Anointed.” “…we, the right-thinking, are the ones who will say who is and isn’t bigoted.” “One person’s hate speech is another person’s sincerest criticism.” “To make speech punishable on grounds of intent is to give authorities the power to punish criticism whenever they are suspicious of the critic. We should know better than to give any authority such power…” “The history of science is full of bitter criticism and hard feelings; there is simply no way around it. If you insist on an unhostile or nonoffensive environment, then you belong in a monastery, not a university.” “People who like authoritarianism always picture themselves running the show. But no one stays on top for long.” Karl Popper “Is it not a common experience that those who are most convinced of having got rid of their prejudices are most prejudiced?” Of a withdrawn invitation to Linda Chavez to speak at a university, “She had the wrong kinds of beliefs and so was the wrong kind of person.” “The only way to kill a bad idea is by exposing it and supplanting it with better ones.” — you cannot simply tell people not to have an idea. “We cannot fight hate and fraud without seeing them and debunking them… ‘Wrong opinions and practices gradually yield to fact and argument: but fact and arguments, to produce any effect on the mind, must be brought before it.’” JS Mill. “Our greatest enemy is not irrational hate… it is rational hate, hate premised upon falsehood… The main way to eliminate hate is not to legislate or inveigh against it, but to replace it — with knowledge, empirical and ethical.” Gives example of Frank Kameny who was dismissed from the military for being gay, and fought for 30 some odd years, eventually receiving an apology from Obama Administration.