To test one’s convictions, an honest thinker must consider competing viewpoints to confront one’s own dearly held beliefs and presuppositions. Perhaps, after considering an opposing view, one sees an error in one’s own view. Perhaps a seeker after truth sees how he or she was right all along. But there may be nuances and contours and depths newly discovered through considerations of an opposing view. Or perhaps one sees the same view but now from a new confidence, a different vista, ever enriching the perspective. Truth is likened to a diamond, where beholding different dimensions of it only adds to its beauty and goodness.
Free speech is worth defending not just for the sake of freedom—it is for something far grander. It is worth defending for the sake of truth. Freedom of speech is good and wonderful, but it is an instrumental good in the service of the intrinsic good of knowledge and wisdom—ultimately, truth. As G. K. Chesterton said, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” Solid, like rock-solid truth.
These are dark days when free speech is stifled, such that the vocation of academia for truth-seeking is severely hindered. But there are glimmers of hope. The Academic Freedom Alliance (AFA) is a new organization dedicated to defending academic freedom. (I am a member.) It condemned MIT’s decision to disinvite Professor Abbot. After MIT’s embarrassing surrender, one of AFA’s founders, Robert P. George of Princeton University, invited Professor Abbot to lecture at Princeton. Professor Abbot then delivered the same lecture on the same day that he had been scheduled to lecture at MIT—but he spoke at Princeton’s James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions instead. Enrollment in the Zoom event for the lecture grew so large that Princeton had to increase its Zoom capacity for it. Thousands of people attended or viewed the lecture.
“Free speech is worth defending not just for the sake of freedom—it is for something far grander. It is worth defending for the sake of truth.” https://t.co/85STL0hLLG
— Andrew T. Walker (@andrewtwalk) November 1, 2021