A very short secular sermon 7

In the light of certain altercations that have taken place recently on our comment pages – less arguments than cursing and mud-slinging – we offer the balm of some words by Dr. Theodore Dalrymple, one of the (few) great moral thinkers of our time. The quotation comes from his recent book of collected essays, Anything Goes. We more than recommend it, we urge our readers, commenters, visitors and critics to read it. You’re unlikely to agree with every word, but every word is worth reading.

The essay we are borrowing from is titled Freedom And Its Discontents.

There are few of us who have never felt the temptation to silence those fools and scoundrels who have views different from our own. They must, after all, be either stupid or malevolent (or, of course, both). If the means to silence them were at hand, we’d be sorely tempted to use them.

Which of us listens without impatience and even anger to the arguments of our opponents? …

Love of free speech in most men is only fear of being shut up. If they were a bit stronger than they are, they would just have monologues, the most pleasurable of all speech forms. …

The threat to free speech does not inhere, therefore, solely in governments, but in our hearts.

We welcome debate.  Please put your arguments, the more persuasively the better. Agree, disagree, criticize, give your reasons. The slinging of invective is not argument and never persuades anyone to anything. Mere abuse is not productive, and not interesting to read.

One more thing. Listening (and its equivalent, reading attentively) is an art worth practicing. Ideally, we need first to comprehend, then to test with internal argument, and only then to express ourselves freely.

Posted under Commentary, Ethics, Miscellaneous by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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