a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Tag: intellectual humility

Intellectually Humble Free Speech Law

Scholars familiar with the philosophical arguments in favor of robust free speech protections commonly identify three kinds of arguments given in favor of such protections:

1. Free speech helps us discover truth,
2. Free speech is required for democratic self-governance,
3. Free speech is an important part of autonomy.

Contemporary social and political circumstances—including the persistent spread of viral misinformation via social media—have called these traditional arguments into question.

Can we really claim that free speech helps us discover truth when the data suggest that falsehoods travel, on average, much faster and farther than truthful corrections? Does free speech, on balance, help preserve democracy when the integrity of elections is being undermined by orchestrated viral disinformation campaigns?

Such questions prompted by social, political, and material reality ought to be taken seriously. Taking such questions seriously may require us to reconsider what kinds of arguments best ground free speech rights. This may, in turn, require us to reconsider what good free speech law and policy should look like.

Virtue Signaling and Moral Discourse

*This is a co-written piece by A.K. Flowerree and Mark Satta.

Photo Credit to Volodymyr Hryshchenk

Recently, there has been philosophical debate about the moral significance of virtue signaling (i.e. using moral language to make oneself look good).

Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke—who prefer the term ‘moral grandstanding’—argue that virtue signaling corrodes moral discourse and impairs moral progress. Others, like Neil Levy and Evan Westra, argue that virtue signaling is not only morally benign but also sometimes morally beneficial.

Still, as Levy notes, accusations of virtue signaling are “typically understood as a serious charge.” Implicit in Levy’s comment is the observation that virtue signaling is something that people accuse others of doing. This is the fact that interests us here. We suspect that judging others as virtue signalers causes more harm than virtue signaling itself. And we think this is epistemically and ethically significant.

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