Previously, I claimed that, generally speaking, Free-Speech Crusaders (FSCs) hold at least three core tenets. They were as follows:
(1) There are no conditions in which free speech should be censored, limited, or even curtailed [the naive free speech tenet].
(2) Truth is the only necessary (and thus sufficient) condition, thus the only justification for holding a belief [the facts don’t care about your feelings tenet].
(3) A persons emotions, or feelings, should never be an input into our reasoning about (1) or (2) [the logic and reason tenet].
In the last post I showed that (1) is not true, since morality and truth appear to be things that legitimately restrict what we can say. And while truth and ethics might limit our speech we do not, intuitively, take these restrictions as violating free speech.
In this post, I’ll explain how there is serious tension between (2) and (3), since there are some propositions which has their truth value turn upon how we feel. Such propositions are those that relate directly to our feelings while others are moral claims that primarily involve ‘harm’ (as understood in both consequentialist and deontological thought).
To begin, let us consider propositions involving feelings or emotions. Consider the following. Suppose two teams, Red and Blue, are playing a game of football (soccer). The final score is 5 – 0, in the red’s favour. Suppose we make the following claims:
1. Blue lost to Red.
2. All the players on Blue are happy they lost.
3. All the players on Red are happy they won.
4. Most of the players on Blue are angry because they think Red cheated to win.
The above propositions have truth values; the claims are either true or false (or perhaps both or neither). Claim 1. and 2. are false, while Claim 3. and 4. are true. What makes the respective claims true or false? The claims seem to depend on facts of the matter, but some of these facts are not independent of feelings. The truth values of claims 2, 3, and 4, are somewhat predicated upon the feelings of the players of those teams. Since this is the case, it means that (3) is false, because some claims do require us to consider a persons (or group of persons) emotions or feelings, then for such claims our reasoning on them requires taking into consider the feeling of others.
Now, we might want to say that (2) still holds, because even if the truth of some proposition hinges upon feelings that does not mean we take consideration of feelings as an extra condition. For feelings would only matter in virtue of them grounding a truth claim – but the thing that makes them worth noting is that they are true and not that they are feelings. Perhaps an argument can be made here, but the point remains that truth and feelings are still not as inseparable as FSCs think they are.
Another problem about the dichotomy placed between (2) and (3) involves ethics and morality. It appears that certain types of claims about morality and ethics, especially surrounding under what conditions a person is wronged, are problematic.
If we adopt a theory of ethics similar to consequentialism or hedonism, the wrongness or an action depends upon the harm it produces. And considering the most intuitive way of understanding harm along consequentialist lines involves a persons emotive response, then it appears again that the conflict between (2) and (3) arises. Worse still, in cases such as these the truth of whether an action is wrong or not depends entirely upon that feeling.
The same problem still seems to exist in deontological ethics with regards to consent. Consider two different cases. In case one, Andy hits Byron square in the jaw during a robbery, knocking him out. In case two, Casey hits Dany square in the jaw during a boxing match, knocking her out. Who was harmed, Byron or Dany? In terms of violation of consent, Byron has been harmed whereas Dany has not. Reason being that as part of a boxing match, Dany has waved her right to not be physically assaulted (i.e., consented), whereas Byron has been physically assaulted on the street and did not give consent for such behaviour to be done to him.
Note, however, that the fact of whether Byron or Dany were harmed in such cases depends upon the subjective opinion of the person who was hit. Whether such waving of consent can be counted as a feeling or emotion seems doubtful to me, but the hard line that so many FSCs draw between facts and a persons subjective experience seems problematic at best, especially when we consider ethical truths or propositions.
So it seems that (2) is too strict a claim and is not sensitive to the fact that some truth claims can be dependent upon our feelings or emotions. Considering (3) states that such feelings should never be inputs into our reasoning for (2), then it’s not entirely clear at all how we could ever evaluate claims dependent upon feelings or emotions.