A Few Links On Free-Speech, Duck Dynasty & Gay Rights

Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty, may have beliefs with which you agree or disagree, but he’s managing to push a lot of buttons.

Addition:  As a reader asked before, are we talking about legal and constitutional definitions of speech and case-law, or some broader ones?

For my part, given where I live, I’m accustomed (numb, really) to the excesses of the PC crowd.  Some people really want to control public debate and silence opposition, which ought to be assurance enough they shouldn’t be controlling public debate nor telling the rest of us what we can say without serious push-back.  The discontents of the New Left, and more Left-of-Center movements promising liberation from oppression and ever more rights for all (conveniently granted by themselves, their leaders and their ideological commitments) can often drive such debates.

It’s worth noting that it’s not just social and religious conservatives, but often people more familiar with the turf, who are pushing-back against these particular groups:  classical and free-speech liberals, more non-communitarian and non-collectivist constitutional liberals, neo-conservatives, libertarians, and folks like Christopher Hitchens.

-Camille Paglia, Catholic-leaning child of the 60’s, argues that gays and lesbians might want to take pause before joining a mob which could eventually turn on them:

“I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility,” Paglia said. “This is not the mark of a true intellectual life

-Nick Gillespie, at Time magazine, makes a broader argument about celebrity, technology and instant feedback which levels authority.  We still want more speech, not less (libertarians tend to see both Right and Left as having authoritarian bases which threaten individual liberty):

‘Between the suspension by A&E of Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson for anti-gay remarks in an interview with GQ, the firing of actor and MSNBC talk-show host Alec Baldwin for his own homophobic ranting, and the Food Network’s cutting ties with chef Paula Deen due to racially insensitive remarks that came to light during a lawsuit, it seems like it’s open season on celebrities.’

Here’s a quote I put up just last Sunday from Peter Berkowitz on Leo Strauss, which strikes me as quite reasonable.

“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy in the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”

And Hitchens still makes for compelling and interesting listening on speech:

From The BBC-Kurt Westergaard: ‘Cartoonist Attacker In Danish Court’

Full video here.

Kurt Westergaard, cartoonist behind the image of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, had a visit from a Somali Muslim with an axe. Westergaard is doing well, apparently, as he retreated to a safe room specially prepared for such an incident until police arrived.  He’s been threatened many times in the past.

Cartoons here. (Westergaard’s is the 2nd down, I don’t have the rights to reprint).

Addition from the Christian Science Monitor-The same man was plotting an attack against Hilary Clinton in Kenya?

See Also:  If you thought the cartoons were bad, more on the Fitna movie here.  Libertarians stand firm on this issue:  Repost-A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant

Via The A & L Daily-Interview With Christopher Caldwell At Spiegel Online

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: Yale Surrenders

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Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Full essay here.

Fashioning a coat to fit the times?

Nussbaum may be trying to address waves of Muslim immigrants that have poured into European, and Western societies.  She also seems to be asking a central question:  How do you create a civil society that does not place religion above a concept of the moral good, yet that also does not pursue the moral good while zealously excluding religion? 

She tells the story of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, who held deep religious beliefs, yet, Nussbaum argues, was someone who cast his moral thinking deeper than those beliefs, drafting the Rhode Island charter on the idea ‘individual human conscience:’

“Conscience, for Williams, plays the role that the directive faculty of moral choice plays in the ancient Stoic authors whom he studied: it is a faculty of searching and choosing, although for Williams it includes imagination and emotion as well as ethical reasoning. It is, Williams holds, the main source of our identity as agents: it is “indeed the man.””

So, WIlliams tempered his religious beliefs with classical learning and a certain political pragmatism…yet he also tempered that political pragmatism with his religious beliefs (avoiding a true, hard-hearted Stoicism).  Nussbaum further suggests that some of Williams’ thinking even pre-sagedImmanuel Kant:

“Just as Kant asks a person to test the principle of his or her conduct by asking whether it could without contradiction be made a universal law for all human beings, so Williams’s critique of the leaders of Massachusetts and Connecticut is that their idea cannot pass a test of that sort: they love freedom–but only for themselves.”

“For both, the source of moral principles, and of all moral worth, is ultimately in our own freedom, and that freedom must be respected.”

I’m not convinced, though it’s an interesting connection to make in the wake of the Iraq war: Freedom is a universal idea, yet how one pursues that idea can be taken into account, and potentially meet such moral maxims (if only it were that simple).  Nussbaum goes on to contrast John Locke with Roger Williams, and points out how Williams was more sympathetic to the idea that:

“…different religious doctrines meet and overlap in a shared moral space. Each religious person will connect this moral space to his own higher religious goals and ends; but within that space we are all able to speak a common language and share moral principles. As I have argued, this idea of overlap is ultimately more fruitful than the idea of separation.”

But upon what moral principles?  I’m hoping it’s more than the Jesse Prinz’s recent work (deep arguments for morality based on the emotions, but also a Nietzschean extremism and defense of moral relativism).  Nussbaum has done a lot here, and while I don’t share her political views, I very often respect the depth of her thinking.  

Related On This Site:  Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West BengalMartha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAnother Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”…and what to do with the Native Americans?:  Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?

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Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Full essay here.

Fashioning a coat to fit the times?

Nussbaum may be trying to address waves of Muslim immigrants that have poured into European, and Western societies.  She also seems to be asking a central question:  How do you create a civil society that does not place religion above a concept of the moral good, yet that also does not pursue the moral good while zealously excluding religion? 

She tells the story of Roger Williams, founder of Rhode Island, who held deep religious beliefs, yet, Nussbaum argues, was someone who cast his moral thinking deeper than those beliefs, drafting the Rhode Island charter on the idea ‘individual human conscience:’

“Conscience, for Williams, plays the role that the directive faculty of moral choice plays in the ancient Stoic authors whom he studied: it is a faculty of searching and choosing, although for Williams it includes imagination and emotion as well as ethical reasoning. It is, Williams holds, the main source of our identity as agents: it is “indeed the man.””

So, WIlliams tempered his religious beliefs with classical learning and a certain political pragmatism…yet he also tempered that political pragmatism with his religious beliefs (avoiding a true, hard-hearted Stoicism).  Nussbaum further suggests that some of Williams’ thinking even pre-saged Immanuel Kant:

“Just as Kant asks a person to test the principle of his or her conduct by asking whether it could without contradiction be made a universal law for all human beings, so Williams’s critique of the leaders of Massachusetts and Connecticut is that their idea cannot pass a test of that sort: they love freedom–but only for themselves.”

“For both, the source of moral principles, and of all moral worth, is ultimately in our own freedom, and that freedom must be respected.”

I’m not convinced, though it’s an interesting connection to make in the wake of the Iraq war: Freedom is a universal idea, yet how one pursues that idea can be taken into account, and potentially meet such moral maxims (if only it were that simple).  Nussbaum goes on to contrast John Locke with Roger Williams, and points out how Williams was more sympathetic to the idea that:

“…different religious doctrines meet and overlap in a shared moral space. Each religious person will connect this moral space to his own higher religious goals and ends; but within that space we are all able to speak a common language and share moral principles. As I have argued, this idea of overlap is ultimately more fruitful than the idea of separation.”

But upon what moral principles?  I’m hoping it’s more than the Jesse Prinz’s recent work (deep arguments for morality based on the emotions, but also a Nietzschean extremism and defense of moral relativism).  Nussbaum has done a lot here, and while I don’t share her political views, I very often respect the depth of her thinking.  

Related On This SiteMartha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West BengalMartha Nussbaum On Eliot Spitzer At The Atlanta Journal-ConstitutionAnother Note On Jesse Prinz’s “Constructive Sentimentalism”…and what to do with the Native Americans?:  Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?

by Benthamite

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