Freedom of Expression is More Important than Dignity
Tauriq Moosa is a tutor in ethics, bioethics and critical thinking at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He is currently pursuing a Masters degree at the Centre for Applied Ethics, Stellenbosch University. He has published essays and articles on practical ethics, focusing on subjects like free expression, killing, sex, and religion in public life. He debated religion with Archbishop Desmond Tutu in the BBC documentary, the Tutu Talks, and has been featured on local radio shows. He is also an avid comic book writer and reader.
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I wrote a short post on why freedom of expression must and should always trump dignity.
Ideas can remain, locked in place as true or good, even if they are actually terrible ones, by virtue of being unchallenged, whether through ignorance or censoring alternative ideas. We do not want to believe something just because of “custom”: that is, it’s always been there or tradition. We all want to believe the right things, have access to and know the best ideas. This is so we can live the best kinds of lives.
But only we as individuals can decide what that means for ourselves. To do that requires engaging with all sorts of ideas: but to believe ideas only because of tradition, family or hearsay makes you no better than a slave since you are not believing them because you want to, but because someone or something else is telling you to. This happens with everyone, since we are not born with the ability to detect good ideas immediately. It is a lifelong activity. The act of engaging freely with ideas, though, is acknowledgement that one is a free individual, debating good and bad ideas. If you are not able to or simply refuse to scrutinise (all of your) ideas, then you are, as indicated, no better than a slave following orders.
Image Credit: John Marcotte/BadMouth.net