Communication has a myriad purposes, but two are ubiquitous. One is theoretical: we hope (and often need) to judge whether others' claims are true or false. The other is practical: we hope (and often need) to judge whether others' commitments are trustworthy or untrustworthy. Yet many contemporary discussions of speech rights and speech wrongs seem ambivalent or indifferent to norms that matter for judging truth and trustworthiness. By contrast, In the early modern period, arguments were put forward for tolerating others' speech, even if untrue or untrustworthy. These arguments often maintain that tolerating falsehood helps the discovery of truth. By contrast, contemporary views of speech rights stress various freedoms, in particular freedom of expression, yet seem to marginalise both the space for toleration, and the importance of truth and trustworthiness. If everyone has rights to free speech, or indeed to self expression, toleration can come to be seen as a minimal matter, rather than as a demanding and epistemically important virtue. Has the contemporary focus on the speech rights of individuals distracted us from wider ethical and epistemic issues that bear on truth and trustworthiness, and on their communication?
University of Edinburgh
- University of Edinburgh