- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Enlarged edition (January 23, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 022614593X
- ISBN-13: 978-0226145938
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,877 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition Paperback – January 23, 2014
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“Fiercely argued. . . . What sets his study apart is his attempt to situate recent developments in a long-range historical perspective and to defend the system of free intellectual inquiry as a socially productive method of channeling prejudice.”
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Despite my agreement with his arguments, I gave this book only 3 stars because I felt that it provided me with little new information, and would have no effect on those who are urging "speech codes". As I read, I kept thinking of Amadeus, when the Emperor explained to Mozart what was wrong with his latest composition: "Too many notes." In this, too many words. The problem is that those who favor "speech codes" have long since concluded that theirs is the only right view, and that those who feel otherwise are either evil, or stupid, or both. Or, as Rauch says, are latter-day Fundamentalists, with whom it is pointless to argue, Try reading the lonely one-star review for a reasoned rebuttal to Rauch's thesis. So what's the value of a long intellectual argument?
Nor is this anything new. As Nat Hentoff noted in "Free Speech for Me, but Not for Thee", written just over 20 years ago, both Left and Right have been trying to censor the other side for years. And universities have long been known for their leftish bias. Many years ago, when I was in college, official censorship was not yet in vogue, but even the least perceptive of students was careful in what he said in class, or wrote as an exam answer. All that has really changed is that the onslaught of "victimization" studies at the universities has provided an excuse for campus-wide censoring of Wrong Speech enforced by administrators who too well remember the fate of Larry Summers at Harvard..
I think the reason for the book's length is Rauch's effort to make censorship a denial of the scientific method, under which all views of things are subject to constant criticism and question, out of which further enlightenment comes. I would agree in general, although his reliance on the intellectual community to detect error doesn't, in my view, give enough weight to the non-scientific incentives that seem to be skewing some allegedly dispassionate researchers, and the failures of "peer review." More importantly, anyone who believes a little censorship is a good thing is unlikely to persuaded by, or even pay attention to, arguments about the scientific method, which use up lot of space in this book..
Whether it's good news or bad, the urge to censor speech with which those in power disagree is not new, dating back to Ancient Greece. The fight continues, but it is alarming to have the alleged intellectuals at our Universities join the Inquisition.
This is a book for our times, written by a gay man who is a gay rights activist, and who has lived to witness both intense oppression and inspiring social change. He clearly outlines a set of strength-based and ideologically neutral principles for advocacy and social change, while also providing a well-reasoned and straightforward description of the pitfalls into which those of us who care deeply about people may fall in misguided, and ultimately destructive, endeavors to promote sensitivity in the university. What Rauch has to say is challenging and beautiful.
For professors who are considering using this book (I am assigning it for my graduate-level human development class next fall) I suggest having students read the last chapter first, and I also suggest having students watch the utube interviews with Rauch early in the class (his gentleness and genuine care for others is more apparent in the last chapter and the interviews than it is in the initial chapters of the book, and knowing the author better may help cautious students to engage with some challenging material).
Shutting down opposition with force is shown to end up badly. Science and politics require democracy of intellect. Autocrats, oligarchs, dictators and religion are enemies of skepticism and free inquiry. Freedom is not free and the battle will be fought as long as mankind exists.