Friday, 3 March 2017

Truth and Error



It's always easy to critique our opponents because, of course, they're always wrong. If they weren't wrong they wouldn't be our opponents,would they? Unfortunately our critical regard has to look both ways.

It's a lot more difficult to critique ourselves. I write as someone who once stood for election to the UK parliament as a Liberal.

The intolerance of dissent displayed by large numbers of self-styled liberal people today is about as far from classical liberalism as it's possible to get.

From the very inception of liberal philosophy it has been a fundamental principle that everyone has a right to his or her view and a right to express that view without being subjected to ostracism or vilification. The liberal response to perceived error is calm, rational argument, not howling, bullying abuse.

The totalitarian response to perceived error is to ban and suppress. You can never persuade anyone by these means, you can only alienate and increase social division.

If we want people to hanker even more for the good old days when, in rose-tinted retrospect, life was relatively comfortable and stress-free, then the way we are most likely to achieve it is to keep making the present as unpleasant for them and as unlike those fondly-remembered old days as we possibly can.

Which is pretty much exactly what we're currently doing.

Error cannot be overcome by stifling expression or shouting down; it only withers when exposed to rationally-demonstrable truth.

Truth, by contrast, cannot be destroyed by exposure to error, it can only be strengthened.

In fact, truth that is unwilling to listen to error and show error why it is wrong will soon itself become a mindlessly-recited dead letter.

The current attempt to deny any platform to error and protect us from each and every exposure to it will, perversely, conclude by destroying truth.