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Kindly Inquisitors The New Attacks on Free Thought cover
  • ISBN: 9780226705750
  • ISBN10: 0226705757

Kindly Inquisitors The New Attacks on Free Thought

by Jonathan Rauch

  • List Price: $30.00
  • Binding: Hardcover
  • Publisher: Univ of Chicago Pr
  • Publish date: 03/01/1993
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Thou shalt not hurt others with words. That commandment looks harmless, even admirable. But it is neither. As Jonathan Rauch states in this groundbreaking book, "This moral principle is deadly - inherently deadly, not incidentally so - to intellectual freedom and to the productive and peaceful pursuit of knowledge". Americans are used to thinking of liberal society as standing on two pillars: the economic system of capitalism and the political system of democracy. But a third pillar of liberalism, although little heralded and often poorly understood, is just as important: the system for producing knowledge. "Liberal science", as Rauch calls it, performs the crucial task of developing knowledge by choosing between conflicting views. In Kindly Inquisitors, Rauch explores how that system works and why it has now become the object of a more powerful ideological attack than at any time since the great battles between science and religion. Moving beyond the First Amendment, Kindly Inquisitors defends the morality, rather than the legality, of an intellectual regime that relies on unfettered and often hurtful criticism. After explaining the rules that make science work, Rauch identifies three major threats. The first and oldest is from fundamentalists - people who believe that truth is obvious and so need not be questioned. Newer and more troubling are the intellectual egalitarians, who hold that everyone's beliefs deserve equal respect. And most problematic of all are the humanitarians, who decry "verbal violence" and demand that no one give offense. Rauch traces the attacks on free thought from Plato's Republic to Iran's death decree against Salman Rushdie, and then to America's campuses andnewsrooms. He provides an impassioned rebuttal to the moral claims of all who would regulate criticism on the grounds of compassion. Attempts to protect people's feelings, though appealing on the surface, lead to the control of knowledge by central authorities. "The new sensitivity is the old authoritarianism in disguise", he writes, "and it is just as noxious". Kindly Inquisitors is a refreshing and vibrant essay that casts a provocative light on the raging debates over political correctness and multiculturalism. Students and philosophers will appreciate its penetrating analysis of science; citizens, its passionate defense of unfettered criticism.
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