April 1, 2019 at 8:15 pm

Philosophy Lecture | No-Platforming and the Paradox of Dogmatism, April 16

Michael Veber, portrait with human brain in jar in front of him.

Dr. Michael Veber

Dr. Michael Veber—author of the recent book Tell Me Something I Don’t Know (Broadview Press 2018)—discusses his book in Jeremy Morris’s Theory of Knowledge class on Tuesday, April 16, and is giving a public lecture titled “No-Platforming and the Paradox of Dogmatism” at 5:30 p.m. in Ellis 103.

Veber is Associate Professor of Philosophy at East Carolina University.

Abstract: The epistemological defense of freedom of speech, famously articulated by J.S. Mill, says that you should not only encourage but open-mindedly engage with dissenting opinions because you might be the one who is wrong. The epistemological defense of “no-platforming”—i.e., the practice of preventing people with objectionable views from contributing to public debate—directly contradicts Mill’s position. It claims that encouraging and engaging with certain kinds of problematic speech is an avoidable and unnecessary threat to what is often our most important knowledge. This paper defends Mill’s position against this kind of view. The epistemological defense of no-platforming is a practical application of the paradox of dogmatism—an argument to the effect that if you know that P, you ought to ignore any evidence against P because it is, by definition, misleading. If applied consistently, this reasoning would justify no-platforming anyone whose speech conflicts with what we know—which is absurd. Epistemologists friendly to no-platforming have tried to block this consequence by appeal to Harman’s solution to the paradox. But, if we are concerned with practical applications of the paradox, Harman’s response fails to avoid the absurd consequence. An alternative solution to the paradox—one that supports the Millian epistemological defense of freedom of speech—is proposed.

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