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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

That's controversial!

My essay, "Oh No, That's Controversial!", has been published online by The Philosophers' Magazine. I discuss the recent launch of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, which is an initiative that I support for reasons that I explain in some detail. This does not mean that its performance has been perfect so far, but it has good intentions and has made a pretty good start. In my view, this journal does have a role to play - perhaps an important one.

Near the end of my essay, I observe: "I’m sympathetic to this project; for many reasons, I wish it success. One reason is that it seems to stand for an important point that’s seldom well understood. We can distinguish between abusive conduct toward individuals, on one hand, and, on the other hand, scholarly discussion of ideas that some people might find upsetting. It is one thing to mock, or taunt, or deeply denigrate individuals for their personal characteristics or aspects of their self-presentation, or, indeed, for their ideas. It’s an entirely different thing to communicate opinions on topics of general importance, even if they challenge others’ self-conceptions or dissent radically from a local consensus. Within very broad limits, advancing unpopular or dissenting opinions should not be seen as inviting abuse, censorship, or harmful consequences such as derailed careers and tainted reputations."

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