Within the idea of a public philosophy, freedom of speech is conceived of as an indispensable means to a confrontation of opinion – as in a Socratic dialogue, or an examination / cross examination in a court of law – in an effort to arrive at the truth. However, if there’s a dividing line between liberty and license, it is where freedom of speech is no longer respected as a procedure for discovering the truth and simply becomes the unrestricted right to exploit ignorance and to incite the passions of uninformed people.
Indeed, when genuine debate is lacking, freedom of speech does not work as it was meant to work in the preservation of all other essential freedoms. It loses the principle which regulates it and justifies it – that is to say, dialectic conducted according to logic and the rules of evidence. If there is no effective debate, free speech is eventually curtailed for all manner of reasons and pretexts, supposedly intending to serve all kinds of good, foolish, or sinister ends.
In the current environment there is an obvious, burgeoning need to preserve the ability to subject our political speech to civil criticism and debate. Because the dialectical debate is the best procedure society has for attaining moral and political truth. In short, the right to speak is, and should always be, protected by both the obligation and willingness to debate.
Some articles that exemplify this issue:
“The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution may be the cornerstones of our form of government, but they, in turn, owe a great deal to the principles expressed in some of our earliest political writings.”ANONYMOUS
“The best of our traditions provide the additional knowledge that things which have had a good reputation over the course of time are more trustworthy than untried and untested theories.”Larry P Arnn
“Put another way, most of the documents at the center of American political theory – and the values, concerns, and preferences they embody – emerge out of the experiences and circumstances of the American people at different times and places. As such, these documents are integral to coherently explicating the American political tradition; indeed, they constitute its essence.”George W Carey
“America is great because she is good, and if America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”Alexis de Tocqueville
“I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”Ronald Reagan, Epitaph