“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.” (“Where they burn books, they will, in the end, burn people too.”) ~ Heinrich Heine
“The welfare of the people has always been the alibi of tyrants.” ~ Albert Camus
“Beliefs can be false… They can also be morally repugnant. Among likely candidates: beliefs that are sexist, racist or homophobic”, says Daniel DeNicola, professor and chair of philosophy at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania.
Here’s a bit of Professor DeNicola’s jeremiad at aeon.co:
Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the wilfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!’ But is there such a right?
. . .
Beliefs are factive: to believe is to take to be true. It would be absurd, as the analytic philosopher G E Moore observed in the 1940s, to say: ‘It is raining, but I don’t believe that it is raining.’ Beliefs aspire to truth – but they do not entail it. Beliefs can be false, unwarranted by evidence or reasoned consideration. They can also be morally repugnant. Among likely candidates: beliefs that are sexist, racist or homophobic; the belief that proper upbringing of a child requires ‘breaking the will’ and severe corporal punishment; the belief that the elderly should routinely be euthanised; the belief that ‘ethnic cleansing’ is a political solution, and so on. If we find these morally wrong, we condemn not only the potential acts that spring from such beliefs, but the content of the belief itself, the act of believing it, and thus the believer.
And before you say, the professor is simply down with science, or empiricism, and warning us against superstition:
I do not mean to revert to the stern evidentialism of the 19th-century mathematical philosopher William K Clifford, who claimed: ‘It is wrong, always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.’ . . . Moreover, as the psychologist William James responded in 1896, some of our most important beliefs about the world and the human prospect must be formed without the possibility of sufficient evidence. . . .
Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs – and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe. If some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right.
You see, ‘morally repugnant’ beliefs that can lead to actions — through the use of free will. So, rather than try to prevent disfavored actions (or punish them after the fact), we should just stamp out offending beliefs that are not “morally right”.
And who will decide what is “morally right’? Why, the guardians of ‘cultural’ ethics, or course. The people who tell Spotify to ban music and lyrics by disfavored artists. The same people who claim capitalism is evil and sex work is male oppression and pornoraphy is violence.
A free person has the right to believe anything he wants, and that is because freedom includes the right to be wrong and the right to make mistakes. Full stop.
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.” ~ Gandhi
ht: Jerry Barnett / Sex and Censorship