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Re: Free Speech and Stoicism

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  • Malcolm
    ... Salve Steve, Certainly Stoics believe in the polis, and in contributing to the life of the City, and do not believe in a withdrawal into a walled garden.
    Message 1 of 29 , Oct 1, 2010
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      Steve wrote:
      >
      > We cannot isolate this internal process of self improvement from our choices about the world. While the Stoic believes that his or her assent to impressions is the only thing in his or her control that assent aims at some preferred outcome.

      ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

      Salve Steve,

      Certainly Stoics believe in the polis, and in contributing to the life of the City, and do not believe in a withdrawal into a walled garden. But that does not change the simple fact that Stoic philosophy is directed entirely at making it possible for individuals to change themselves, and is not a social program for changing the world. Individual stoics may conceive of such a program, but they do that outside the realm of Stoicism.

      As for your saying "We cannot isolate this internal process of self improvement from our choices about the world", you may be in disagreement with Epictetus, who recommends just that for his students until they reach the point of of applying choice only to those things which are in our power.

      I think that everyone who has made an effort at reaching this Stoic goal, will understand how difficult it is. Easy in theory, difficult in practice. It is what Stoicism actually teaches us.

      ................................

      He who is making progress, having learned from philosophers that desire means the desire of good things, and aversion means aversion from bad things; having learned too that happiness and tranquility are not attainable by man otherwise than by not failing to obtain what he desires, and not falling into that which he would avoid; such a man takes from himself desire altogether and defers it, but he employs his aversion only on things which are dependent on his will. For if he attempts to avoid anything independent of his will, he knows that sometimes he will fall in with something which he wishes to avoid, and he will be unhappy. Now if virtue promises good fortune and tranquility and happiness, certainly also the progress toward virtue is progress toward each of these things. For it is always true that to whatever point the perfecting of anything leads us, progress is an approach toward this point.

      Epictetus, Discourses, 1.4.1-4
    • Malcolm
      Salve, It seems to me that your handling of Stoicism may be rather gnostic. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia: The Gnostics, it is true, borrowed their
      Message 2 of 29 , Oct 1, 2010
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        Salve,

        It seems to me that your handling of Stoicism may be rather gnostic. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

        "The Gnostics, it is true, borrowed their terminology almost entirely from existing religions, but they only used it to illustrate their great idea of the essential evil of this present existence and the duty to escape it by the help of magic spells and a superhuman Saviour."

        Although your idea may be very different than the idea of Gnostic Pagans, and Gnostic Christians, your method may be, nevertheless, a sort of gnosticizing process applied to Stoicism, ie transforming Stoic intent to have it say what you think it should say.

        I do not think the problem is you, and am sure I do the same also. My real point is that, in the absence of a living Stoic tradition, some caution is necessary to be sure we are not making Stoicism say what we think it should have said, instead of what actually was said.

        Malcolm

        ..........................


        --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "TheophileEscargot" <snailman100@...> wrote:
        >
        > The Epicureans advocated disengaging from the world and concentrating
        > purely on oneself. They even believed in personal virtue, though as a
        > means of achieving happiness/fulfillment rather than a goal in itself.
        > But the Stoics contrasted themselves with this by stressing their active
        > engagement with the world. Engagement was something rather deeper than
        > just something a stoic is not prohibited from: it was something they
        > used to define their school. If you didn't want to engage with society,
        > then you joined the Epicureans in the countryside communes, or threw
        > away your possessions and wandered the streets as a Cynic, you didn't
        > become a Stoic.
        > By modern standards the stoics shifted value from the external world to
        > oneself. It may be tempting for a modern person to think "great, stoics
        > say nothing in the external world has value so if I become a stoic then
        > I don't have to bother with improving the world". But in fact all that's
        > happened is that you've shifted the value from the world to your own
        > virtue. Though the wellbeing of your polis is an indifferent, you
        > haven't ducked responsibility for it by becoming a stoic: your own
        > virtue requires that you strive to improve it.
        > Also, both the virtues and the indifferents are judged by reference to
        > nature. The stoics themselves thought of their ethics as grounded in
        > their physics: ethics being the fruit of the tree, physics the soil it
        > grows from. The decisions that a stoic makes, even about indifferents,
        > still depend on what he thinks a human being should be, what the world
        > is like, how people should deal with each other, and what is in
        > accordance with nature.
        >
        > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Malcolm" <malcolmschosha@> wrote:
        > >
        > > Salve,
        > >
        > > Yes, it was considered a comprehensive system. But Stoicism is
        > intended to give us a way to change ourselves, and is not particularly
        > concerned with changing externals. There is, obviously, no reason a
        > Stoic could not go on to engage in efforts to better the world. But
        > Stoicism itself has no external goals because it is concerned only with
        > changing what in our power, which for each of us is ourselves.
        > >
        > > There are already enough people who think they know how to improve the
        > world, but who can not even improve themselves. Eric Voegelin designated
        > all such as Gnostic. (In his thinking, that is not a compliment.) If
        > that is correct, or not, such efforts certainly are not Stoicism.
        > >
        > > Malcolm
        > >
        > > .......................
        > >
        > >
        > > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "TheophileEscargot" snailman100@ wrote:
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > Well, I think it's a bit limiting to stick to stoic training in
        > > > particular.
        > > >
        > > > Stoics saw themselves as having a comprehensive system of philosophy
        > in
        > > > which all the parts were related. Zeno used the analogy of an
        > orchard
        > > > with Physics as the soil, Logic as the fence guarding the fruit, and
        > > > Ethics as the fruit of the trees. Cleanthes divided these further
        > into
        > > > Dialectics, Rhetoric, Ethics, Politics, Physics, and Theology.
        > > >
        > > > I think it's important to remember that the surviving texts of
        > stoicism
        > > > are only a tiny fraction of the original body of work. Moreover,
        > they're
        > > > not necessarily the texts that the stoics themselves thought were
        > most
        > > > important: they're the texts that the monks and scribes of late
        > > > antiquity and the middle ages chose to copy. Un-Christian or
        > politically
        > > > unsafe ideas may have remained uncopied.
        > > >
        > > > Now different people on this forum have different interests. Some
        > are
        > > > interested primarily in a rigorous understanding of what the
        > classical
        > > > stoics thought. For them, it may well be pointless guessing, for
        > > > example, what Cleanthes' politics may have been: there's no textual
        > > > evidence, so no firm conclusions can be drawn.
        > > >
        > > > But I think if someone's interested in a modern stoicism, it's
        > > > reasonable to think about political concepts such as free speech. We
        > can
        > > > at least consider what is consistent and what is inconsistent with
        > the
        > > > stoic views that have survived: in particular their view of human
        > > > nature.
        > > >
        > > >
        > > > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "Malcolm" <malcolmschosha@> wrote:
        > > > >
        > > > > Salve,
        > > > >
        > > > > Every Stoic is guaranteed free speech, as long as he/she judges
        > > > correctly that externals are not in our power and is willing to pay
        > the
        > > > price what is said. As Epictetus said: "Philosophy does not propose
        > to
        > > > secure for a man any external thing. If it did philosophy would be
        > > > allowing something which is not within its province."
        > > > >
        > > > > We get the free speech (parrhesia), and can say whatever we judge
        > to
        > > > be good, as long as we are willing to live with the consequences of
        > what
        > > > we say. The consequences are not in our power.
        > > > >
        > > > > Beyond that point, it is not a Stoic issue. The Stoic training was
        > > > traditionally focused on what is in our power to change (ourselves),
        > and
        > > > not particularly focused on changing what is not in our power
        > > > (externals).
        > > > >
        > > > > Malcolm
        > > > >
        > > > > ...................................
        > > > >
        > > > > --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, "TheophileEscargot" snailman100@
        > wrote:
        > > > > >
        > > > > >
        > > > > > Sorry for the delayed response, been a bit busy lately. I have
        > been
        > > > > > thinking about it though.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > As I said previously, the surviving stoic texts don't seem to
        > say
        > > > > > anything about either restricting speech or permitting speech.
        > So I
        > > > > > think we have to look at the core stoic principles on this one.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > Now, suppose someone thought that apart from an elite, most
        > human
        > > > beings
        > > > > > were fundamentally irrational, and that the power of reason was
        > > > weak.
        > > > > > Such a person would probably think that speech has to be
        > restricted,
        > > > to
        > > > > > prevent the masses from being swayed by dangerous ideas.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > However, stoics think the opposite. They think that every human
        > > > being is
        > > > > > endowed with reason, and that reason is a powerful force.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > Therefore, it's more consistent for them to think that speech
        > should
        > > > be
        > > > > > free. It should be possible to refute bad ideas with correct
        > logic.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > So in your example "should we let some guy negate the existence
        > of
        > > > gas
        > > > > > chambers in nazi camps during WWII", I think the answer is that
        > yes
        > > > we
        > > > > > should let him, but we should argue against him. For instance,
        > > > there's
        > > > > > plenty of evidence here:
        > > > > > http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/deniers_01.shtml
        > > > > >
        > <http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/deniers_01.shtml>
        > > > > > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Holocaust_denial
        > > > > > <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Holocaust_denial>
        > > > > >
        > > > > > I think a stoic is likely to believe that it's more effective to
        > let
        > > > a
        > > > > > holocaust denier state his case and then refute him, than to
        > forbid
        > > > him
        > > > > > to speak in the first place. If human beings are essentially
        > > > rational,
        > > > > > it doesn't matter how many false statements the denier makes, if
        > > > each
        > > > > > one is refuted.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > I think the same goes for someone who wants to argue that "it's
        > good
        > > > to
        > > > > > eat babies for breakfast". Let him make his case, then refute
        > it, if
        > > > you
        > > > > > think it's even likely to persuade anyone.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > Regarding the stoic sage: I think there's a lot of confusion
        > over
        > > > that
        > > > > > idea. The idea of the sage wasn't unique to stoicism, it was
        > common
        > > > to
        > > > > > various schools of classical philosophy. The Epicureans had
        > their
        > > > own
        > > > > > idea of the sage, and so on.
        > > > > >
        > > > > > But in all the schools, the sage was considered to be either an
        > > > > > unattainable ideal, or so rare that only a handful had existed
        > in
        > > > > > history. The sage is just a way of discussing what is the right
        > way
        > > > for
        > > > > > a human being to act and be. To think about the right thing to
        > do,
        > > > you
        > > > > > can think about or discuss what a perfect human being would do.
        > But
        > > > the
        > > > > > sage is essentially an abstract concept, not someone you're
        > going to
        > > > > > meet in the street. As such, it doesn't particularly matter
        > whether
        > > > a
        > > > > > sage could really exist or not. Even if you think a living,
        > > > breathing
        > > > > > sage is utterly impossible, it's still useful to consider in a
        > given
        > > > > > situation, "what would a perfect human being do?"
        > > > >
        > > >
        > >
        >
      • Steve Marquis
        Malcolm writes, _______________ But that does not change the simple fact that Stoic philosophy is directed entirely at making it possible for individuals to
        Message 3 of 29 , Oct 1, 2010
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          Malcolm writes,

          _______________

           

          But that does not change the simple fact that Stoic philosophy is directed entirely at making it possible for individuals to change themselves, and is not a social program for changing the world. Individual stoics may conceive of such a program, but they do that outside the realm of Stoicism.

          _______________

           

          I think you are polarizing what I want to say more than necessary.  I happen to agree with you that Stoicism is inwardly focused.  But you cannot make choices about nothing; without content.  Maybe there are those who contemplate pure virtue all day without any reference to sleep or food or movement or any other external thing but I haven’t met anyone like that nor do the ancients make reference to such a life.  Instead the Stoics teach that the external aims of choices are indfferents.  The aims don’t go away; rather we learn how to correctly value these aims.  And those aims can be ranked.  Some are more preferred than others.  Can you give me an example of a deliberation and a choice that clearly makes no reference, no matter how convoluted, to any external thing?  Even abstract ideas will refer eventually to some external object if by no other means than our past experiences associated with those ideas, many which we are not aware of consciously.  So, though we want to say the inner life is primary and that our well being does not require any particular arrangement of externals whatsoever still we are immersed in externals on a daily basis.  What our task is is to correctly value externals (as indfferents) even though these objects form the meat and potatoes of what our choices are about.

           

          The Stoic motto ‘to live in accord with nature’ makes reference to what accords with us.  So, all things considered it is preferable to be physically healthy rather than not for example.  It follows then that a proper external aim is physical health even though not achieving that aim, such as when we are ill or injured, is not necessary for our happiness.  I think being preferred but not necessary says it all.

           

          With that in mind and realizing our choices will have reference to some external object at some point (we cannot live otherwise) it becomes part of a deliberate life where we use our grey matter to weigh options instead of just reacting to aim at preferred externals.  I say aim at, aim at Malcolm, not achieve, and I was very careful in my last post to state that where our responsibility stops at and what the Stoics say our happiness depends on is correct intent, not the external realization of the intent.  As long as that distinction is maintained which is the same as to not hold false judgments of value I don’t see where I am conflicting with Epictetus.

           

          Part of Malcolm’s quote of Epictetus:

          _____________

           

          For if he attempts to avoid anything independent of his will, he knows that sometimes he will fall in with something which he wishes to avoid, and he will be unhappy.

          _____________

           

          ‘. . . attempting to avoid’ I read as depending on the planned outcome actually coming about (the agent actually avoids what he was trying to avoid; and if he doesn’t he feels bad).  That is out of our control and not what I mean by aiming at or intending a preferred outcome at all.  If Epictetus by this meant to not have any aims at particular external outcomes at all then we couldn’t even move ourselves to the bathroom when we needed to go.  Someone would have to put food in our mouths and Stoicism becomes as impractical as radical Skepticism.  Even planning on certain sounds coming out of our mouths when we intend to talk is aiming an external outcome.  There is no getting away from it.  The thing is not to have our emotional well being be dependent upon the aimed or planned for outcome actually coming about.  We intend the best we can and accept the outcome that Providence gives us.

           

          There are externals that accord with us and those that do not.  Don’t you think it is rational to aim for the first and aim to avoid the second?  And if it is so for you why would it be different for another rational human being?  And that is what generates duties.  Our job is to aim correctly.  That is in our control.  Hitting the mark is not.

           

          Live well,

          Steve


          From: Malcolm <malcolmschosha@...>
          To: stoics@yahoogroups.com
          Sent: Fri, October 1, 2010 4:56:25 AM
          Subject: [stoics] Re: Free Speech and Stoicism



          Steve wrote:
          >
          > We cannot isolate this internal process of self improvement from our choices about the world.  While the Stoic believes that his or her assent to impressions is the only thing in his or her control that assent aims at some preferred outcome.

          ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

          Salve Steve,

          Certainly Stoics believe in the polis, and in contributing to the life of the City, and do not believe in a withdrawal into a walled garden. But that does not change the simple fact that Stoic philosophy is directed entirely at making it possible for individuals to change themselves, and is not a social program for changing the world. Individual stoics may conceive of such a program, but they do that outside the realm of Stoicism.

          As for your saying "We cannot isolate this internal process of self improvement from our choices about the world", you may be in disagreement with Epictetus, who recommends just that for his students until they reach the point of of applying choice only to those things which are in our power.

          I think that everyone who has made an effort at reaching this Stoic goal, will understand how difficult it is. Easy in theory, difficult in practice. It is what Stoicism actually teaches us.

          ................................

          He who is making progress, having learned from philosophers that desire means the desire of good things, and aversion means aversion from bad things; having learned too that happiness and tranquility are not attainable by man otherwise than by not failing to obtain what he desires, and not falling into that which he would avoid; such a man takes from himself desire altogether and defers it, but he employs his aversion only on things which are dependent on his will. For if he attempts to avoid anything independent of his will, he knows that sometimes he will fall in with something which he wishes to avoid, and he will be unhappy. Now if virtue promises good fortune and tranquility and happiness, certainly also the progress toward virtue is progress toward each of these things. For it is always true that to whatever point the perfecting of anything leads us, progress is an approach toward this point. 

          Epictetus, Discourses, 1.4.1-4
           



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        • Malcolm
          ... .......................... Salve Steve, What I wrote previously is ...Stoicism is intended to give us a way to change ourselves, and is not particularly
          Message 4 of 29 , Oct 2, 2010
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            Stevewrote:

            > Part of Malcolm's quote of Epictetus:
            > _____________
            >
            > For if he attempts to avoid anything independent of his will, he knows that
            > sometimes he will fall in with something which he wishes to avoid, and he will
            > be unhappy.
            > _____________
            >
            > ˜" . . attempting to avoid" I read as depending on the planned outcome actually
            > coming about (the agent actually avoids what he was trying to avoid; and if he
            > doesn't he feels bad). That is out of our control and not what I mean by aiming
            > at or intending a preferred outcome at all. If Epictetus by this meant to not
            > have any aims at particular external outcomes at all then we couldn't even move
            > ourselves to the bathroom when we needed to go. Someone would have to put food
            > in our mouths and Stoicism becomes as impractical as radical Skepticism....

            ..........................

            Salve Steve,

            What I wrote previously is "...Stoicism is intended to give
            us a way to change ourselves, and is not particularly concerned with changing externals. There is, obviously, no reason a Stoic could not go on to engage in efforts to better the world. But Stoicism itself has no external goals because it is concerned only with changing what in our power, which for each of us is ourselves..."

            I think that is quite correct. Stoics, moreover, always have free speech as long as it is understood that parrhesia is in our power, and the consequences of parrhesia (because the consequences are externals and not in our power) are indifferents.

            As for our getting to the bathroom, we do not need Stoic philosophy for that, and it seems probable that few able bodied students of Stoicism will see a need to bring philosophy into such basic processes.

            Stoic philosophy is intended as a way for us to change ourselves, and not externals; but that does not lead in the direction of withdrawal from life, or turning our backs on the world, because the issue is always judging impressions of externals correctly. Nor is there any reason a Stoic should not involve him/herself in efforts to improve to the City, although Stoicism itself does not have any program for social change.

            Malcolm
          • Grant Sterling
            ... *** I totally disagree. The Stoic believe that all human beings possess the capacity for reason, but that the vast majority of them were indeed
            Message 5 of 29 , Oct 5, 2010
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              On 9/29/2010 3:45 AM, TheophileEscargot wrote:

              > Now, suppose someone thought that apart from an elite, most human beings
              > were fundamentally irrational, and that the power of reason was weak.
              > Such a person would probably think that speech has to be restricted, to
              > prevent the masses from being swayed by dangerous ideas.
              >
              > However, stoics think the opposite. They think that every human being is
              > endowed with reason, and that reason is a powerful force.


              ***
              I totally disagree. The Stoic believe that all human
              beings possess the capacity for reason, but that the vast majority
              of them were indeed "fundamentally irrational" in the sense that
              they do not employ the power of reason that they possess--worse,
              they have actually internalized deeply irrational attitudes to
              such a degree that it is tremendously unlikely that they will
              use reason. That's why the vast majority of people are so far
              from Virtue, so far from Sagedom.
              ***


              > Therefore, it's more consistent for them to think that speech should be
              > free. It should be possible to refute bad ideas with correct logic.


              ***
              Of course it's _possible_. It's just rarely _actual_. :(
              ***


              > So in your example "should we let some guy negate the existence of gas
              > chambers in nazi camps during WWII", I think the answer is that yes we
              > should let him, but we should argue against him. For instance, there's
              > plenty of evidence here:
              > http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/deniers_01.shtml
              > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Holocaust_denial



              ***
              Indeed, there is ample, _overwhelming_ evidence available
              here. Someone would have to be a raving imbecile not to see
              the truth in this matter. And yet, the numbers of such people
              increase yearly. That's exactly my point--people _can_ reason,
              the evidence for reaching the conclusion exists, and yet when
              it suits their prejudices they _won't_ rationally evaluate the
              evidence. Then they teach their children (who otherwise might have
              seen things correctly) what to believe, and so on. There are similar
              examples in other cases, but I've already been insulting enough for
              one thread by calling all the holocaust deniers on this List imbeciles.
              ***


              > I think a stoic is likely to believe that it's more effective to let a
              > holocaust denier state his case and then refute him, than to forbid him
              > to speak in the first place. If human beings are essentially rational,
              > it doesn't matter how many false statements the denier makes, if each
              > one is refuted.


              ***
              True. And if the Stoic is personally present each
              time an irrational idea is presented, and if he is personally
              skilled with his tongue, and if he is always prepared with an
              extensive awareness of the facts and ready-at-hand proof that
              they are facts, then perhaps there is no danger is allowing complete
              freedom of speech. But of course these caveats are impossible to
              realize. Certainly a country can make a law like "you're not allowed
              to deny the Holocaust, unless Grant Sterling is present and has
              access to the materials needed to prove that you're an imbecile". :)
              ***



              > sage could really exist or not. Even if you think a living, breathing
              > sage is utterly impossible, it's still useful to consider in a given
              > situation, "what would a perfect human being do?"


              ***
              I think that's the problem. "What would a perfect human
              being do when personally confronted with a Holocaust denier?" is
              a different question from "what would a wise legislator do when
              confronted with a growing movement of racists who deny the
              Holocaust?"


              Regards,
              Grant
            • TheophileEscargot
              This is certainly a thought-provoking post. First, I m curious for the basis of this paragraph: The Stoic believe that all human beings possess the capacity
              Message 6 of 29 , Oct 8, 2010
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                This is certainly a thought-provoking post.

                First, I'm curious for the basis of this paragraph:

                "The Stoic believe that all human beings possess the capacity for reason, but that the vast majority of them were indeed "fundamentally irrational" in the sense that they do not employ the power of reason that they possess--worse, they have actually internalised deeply irrational attitudes to such a degree that it is tremendously unlikely that they will use reason."

                Can you point to any particular passages or texts that express this point of view? I haven't got this impression from the texts at all: Epictetus for instance seems to criticize lazy aspiring-philosophers as much, or more, than non-philosophers.

                 

                Second, it's worth remembering that Ghi O phrased his original questions in the present tense: "Should the Stoic support free speech?" Some of Grant's response shifts into the past tense. I think we need to establish the difference between what the classical stoics just happened to think, and what they necessarily thought because they were stoics.

                For example, the ancient stoics thought that the brain was a device for cooling the blood. But we would not say that a modern stoic should think that the brain is a device for cooling the blood. The ancient stoics did not believe that because they were stoics, but because they were ancients.

                The society of the Roman Empire was highly stratified. The political system was autocratic. Marcus Aurelius and Seneca were members of the Senatorial class: a highly elite group comprising 600 of the wealthiest, most powerful landowners in the Empire.

                So, if we find autocratic and elitist tendencies in the Roman stoics, it doesn't necessarily mean that these tendencies were because they were stoics: it could be because they were Romans.

                Greek societies were somewhat different. The Athenian democracy was in some ways  less democratic than our own, in that only a minority of the population were free citizens. Yet in some ways it was more so. Rather than a representative democracy were representatives made decisions on the people's behalf, all the citizens would meet together and make decisions collectively. Sortition was employed so that many civic roles were filled by drawing lots: they would literally pick a citizen at random.

                So insofar as the Greek stoics were shaped by their society, it seems likely that they were less elitist, and would have more faith in the rationality of their fellows than the Romans.

                 

                Third, you correctly point out that despite being argued against, some people persist in disbelief of the Holocaust. However, whatever legislation is passed, some people will still persist in disbelieving it.

                Now if they are essentially irrational, it's far from certain that laws will correct them. If they are driven by emotion, applying legal force in the form of fines and imprisonment may cause them to react with even greater fervour.

                 


                --- In stoics@yahoogroups.com, Grant Sterling <gcsterling@...> wrote:
                >
                > On 9/29/2010 3:45 AM, TheophileEscargot wrote:
                >
                > > Now, suppose someone thought that apart from an elite, most human beings
                > > were fundamentally irrational, and that the power of reason was weak.
                > > Such a person would probably think that speech has to be restricted, to
                > > prevent the masses from being swayed by dangerous ideas.
                > >
                > > However, stoics think the opposite. They think that every human being is
                > > endowed with reason, and that reason is a powerful force.
                >
                >
                > ***
                > I totally disagree. The Stoic believe that all human
                > beings possess the capacity for reason, but that the vast majority
                > of them were indeed "fundamentally irrational" in the sense that
                > they do not employ the power of reason that they possess--worse,
                > they have actually internalized deeply irrational attitudes to
                > such a degree that it is tremendously unlikely that they will
                > use reason. That's why the vast majority of people are so far
                > from Virtue, so far from Sagedom.
                > ***
                >
                >
                > > Therefore, it's more consistent for them to think that speech should be
                > > free. It should be possible to refute bad ideas with correct logic.
                >
                >
                > ***
                > Of course it's _possible_. It's just rarely _actual_. :(
                > ***
                >
                >
                > > So in your example "should we let some guy negate the existence of gas
                > > chambers in nazi camps during WWII", I think the answer is that yes we
                > > should let him, but we should argue against him. For instance, there's
                > > plenty of evidence here:
                > > http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/genocide/deniers_01.shtml
                > > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Holocaust_denial
                >
                >
                >
                > ***
                > Indeed, there is ample, _overwhelming_ evidence available
                > here. Someone would have to be a raving imbecile not to see
                > the truth in this matter. And yet, the numbers of such people
                > increase yearly. That's exactly my point--people _can_ reason,
                > the evidence for reaching the conclusion exists, and yet when
                > it suits their prejudices they _won't_ rationally evaluate the
                > evidence. Then they teach their children (who otherwise might have
                > seen things correctly) what to believe, and so on. There are similar
                > examples in other cases, but I've already been insulting enough for
                > one thread by calling all the holocaust deniers on this List imbeciles.
                > ***
                >
                >
                > > I think a stoic is likely to believe that it's more effective to let a
                > > holocaust denier state his case and then refute him, than to forbid him
                > > to speak in the first place. If human beings are essentially rational,
                > > it doesn't matter how many false statements the denier makes, if each
                > > one is refuted.
                >
                >
                > ***
                > True. And if the Stoic is personally present each
                > time an irrational idea is presented, and if he is personally
                > skilled with his tongue, and if he is always prepared with an
                > extensive awareness of the facts and ready-at-hand proof that
                > they are facts, then perhaps there is no danger is allowing complete
                > freedom of speech. But of course these caveats are impossible to
                > realize. Certainly a country can make a law like "you're not allowed
                > to deny the Holocaust, unless Grant Sterling is present and has
                > access to the materials needed to prove that you're an imbecile". :)
                > ***
                >
                >
                >
                > > sage could really exist or not. Even if you think a living, breathing
                > > sage is utterly impossible, it's still useful to consider in a given
                > > situation, "what would a perfect human being do?"
                >
                >
                > ***
                > I think that's the problem. "What would a perfect human
                > being do when personally confronted with a Holocaust denier?" is
                > a different question from "what would a wise legislator do when
                > confronted with a growing movement of racists who deny the
                > Holocaust?"
                >
                >
                > Regards,
                > Grant
                >

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