Thursday, 14 June 2018

QotD: "Free speech lets the best and brightest produce and consume truth, even if most people hold the truth in disdain."

"While free speech doesn't lead to the victory of truth, at least it allows the search for truth to continue. As long as you have a large, diverse society, you're likely to have a rational subculture - or at least a bunch of subject-specific rational subcultures. Free speech allows these truth-seekers to ask thoughtful questions and propose reasonable answers, even if the thoughtful questions are awkward and the reasonable answers are scary. While the rational are likely to remain the minority, free speech preserves their existence. And since the methods and fruits of [reason] appeal to the smart and curious, free speech allows [the most reasonable] to continuously skim off the cognitive cream of society. ...
    "Free speech lets the best and brightest produce and consume truth, even if most people hold the truth in disdain."

~ Bryan Caplan, from his post 'How to Believe in Free Speech'
NB: I've changed 'rationalist' to  'rational' because I think Bryan got his useage wrong.
Philosophically, a rationalist is one who claims "that man obtains his knowledge of the world by deducing it exclusively from concepts, which come from inside his head and are not derived from the perception of physical facts."
Whereas to be rational "means a commitment to the fullest perception of reality within one’s power and to the constant, active expansion of one’s perception, i.e., of one’s knowledge."
Different things.


  1. ahhh truth and reality, now here's a bite for a libertarian to swallow >> the days of the US attachment to one-way free trade while our trade partners practice mercantilism are over<<. And the EU is to raise an Army to sort out Poland, Hungary, Ausria, Itlay, the Czech Republic, ic and even US trade insanity Donald the Emperor Trump. hahhahahha > not long now Merkel you mad evil woman,

  2. Peter the dictionary definition of rationalist is "someone who bases their opinions on reason and knowledge rather than religion or emotion."

    Didn't you deny being part of a cult? Get your definitions from the dictionary, not the "Ayn Rand Lexicon" FFS.

    1. You err, Barry. Consider the Stanford Dictionary of Philosophy's discussion of rationalism v empiricism (as just one illustration of how these terms are used philosophically): Ratiaonlists, it explains, hold to "The Superiority of Reason Thesis," i.e,., that "the knowledge we gain in subject area S by intuition and deduction or have innately is superior to any knowledge gained by sense experience." So as said above, the rationalist ultimately cuts off reason from their perception of physical facts. And then deals in floating abstractions rather to the exclusion of the physical facts in front of them.
      Which is the very opposite of where and how reason should begin.

    2. That dictionary definition illustrates the typical confusions on the matter. In common language 'rationalist' is often used in the way you suggest, but in a philosophical sense it means something quite different. Look at the Wiki entry on rationalism for instance:

      "The rationalists had such a high confidence in reason that empirical proof and physical evidence were regarded as unnecessary to ascertain certain truths – in other words, "there are significant ways in which our concepts and knowledge are gained independently of sense experience""

      Sense experience/observation + Logic = Reason

      Logic without sense experience/observation = Rationalism

    3. Lewt's add to the fun. When seeking commentary on the meaning of "homo sapiens" it was noted that to call one a "sap" was no compliment but rather a mocking of credulity. From this flows the idea that man is not a rational animal so much as a rationalizing animal, justifying his opinions wil he, nil he.


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