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What would ideal free speech be like?

  1. Jan 7, 2006 #1
    Our fearless forefathers believed it was very important that Americans have freedom of speech in order to be free, but I wonder, where did they come up with this idea? What is the effect of free speech? Why would so many nations not have such a degree of censorship? Why is that being honest to someone often is a bad idea, while using flattery is usually good? What would ideal free speech be like in a society? I mean what would it be like if anyone could say absolutely anything anywhere to anyone and have no fear of penalty, by penalty I mean you can say anything but chances are people will not like you, they may feel that those words are a threat and want to harm you for them. Why does it matter so much what other people think?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 7, 2006 #2
    Random thoughts... There's a balance between individual freedom and social responsibility. When you live in a group that supports you, you reciprocate by supporting the group. Harming the group simply entices the group to harm you. Free speech taken to the extreme of threats, obscenities and the like can harm more people than it helps. But free exchange of sober ideas is almost always positive since it allows ideas to progress. Those who object to any discussion topic commonly want to maintain the status quo for reasons of their own. Those who encourage it may simply enjoy the conversation but may also like to see change which they hope will be for the better, also for reasons of their own.
  4. Jan 7, 2006 #3


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    Freedom of Speech

    Hi jammieg:
    Keep in mind that there are limits to free speech even in so-called democratic societies. There are laws against libel and slander. But if you ask why should there even be free speech, i would ask, why not? If someone can deny you free speech, one should ask how is it they should claim the right to do that? Why do they have authority to deny you a basic right? In other words, why does anyone or any authority have the freedom to deny you your freedom? If they can deny you yours, why can't you deny them theirs? Not that such a tit-for-tat arrangement would be either admirable or rational in any case.

    As people, as rational agents, we have a range of fundamental capacities which allow us to follow through with our goals. IMO, we have these freedoms on the condition that we respect the freedoms of others. Absent any harm to others, why should we limit that freedom?

    Cheers, mrj
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2006
  5. Jan 8, 2006 #4
    Do words really harm people though? I think truly they do not, but people think they do and it's that inability to control one's own thoughts that makes one feel threatened by what others think about one. It comes down to self-control or lack of it. In an ideal society of free speech I imagine that no matter what names I called my employers they wouldn't take offense because it's just words, without reasons to back them, without debate to hold them up they are just words, and I woulnd't have anything to worry about, except for being refered to as an idiot who makes groundless claims. Occasionally I might even have a valid derogatory assertion that might otherwise have been overlooked. In the real world anything I say can and often will be used against me.
  6. Jan 8, 2006 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Insults are one thing - overt threats is where the real problem is.
  7. Jan 8, 2006 #6
    Without a doubt; words do harm. Just my two cents. Freedom of expression is more valuable than freedom of speech, but if you choose to express those emotions through words... expect to get someone elses idea of freedom of expression thrown right back at you, but It's better than not being able to express yourself at all. That's just my opinion.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2006
  8. Jan 9, 2006 #7
    ideal free speech would be, speech that issues from a free being. right?

    but what, exactly, is a "free being"?
    well, such a being is one whom is free of attachments, anywhere; that one is also, of necessity, free of any "self" to which attachments may cling.

    it can be said that, "such freedom issues forth from utter emptiness."
  9. Jan 9, 2006 #8


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    jammieg said: "Do words really harm people though? I thing truly they do
    Words certainly can harm people. Words have effects on other people's
    opinions regarding someone. Say in a small town, 'A' spreads harmful rumours about 'B' and as a result B's life is negatively affected even to the point of having difficulty being hired for a job. Words can have effects on people's beliefs and those beliefs can result in having a negative regard and negative actions toward someone.

    You mentioned "the inability to control one's own thoughts that makes one feel threatened..." I would say such a human being who could control his or her own thoughts to such a degree would be a lot like that
    Vulcan you mentioned in your reply to my post. It 'might' be possible but let's face it we're human and the vast majority of human beings will probalby never reach such a degree of self-control over their thoughts.

    Cheers, mrj
  10. Jan 12, 2006 #9
    I wonder what a society would be like in the other direction like extreme "discipline" over what people say in all it's forms? There's probably a school of thinking that believes people will only do what they are forced and told to do. I wonder if it would be better off overall...
  11. Jan 13, 2006 #10


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    Well, such a place would be an extreme form of dictatorship and why would one want to give up one's freedom for such a society. The question remains, why should the leaders have the freedom to take your freedom away to such an extreme degree. I believe the core of freedom and moral justification is the notion of 'reciprocity.' NO leader could justify to me why such an extreme stance would be rational and thus their would be no reciprocity regarding justifications of political policies or social ethics in such a harsh society.

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