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Philosophers know that there are at least two sides to every story.  The art of argumentation is based on the principle of evaluating the pros and cons of the matter in question.  Since René Descartes, it has been acknowledged that nothing can be known with absolute certainty other than, “I think, therefore, I am”.  The most anybody can have is probable knowledge.  In the world of probable knowledge, even if knowledge, as philosophers often advocate, is justified true belief, the process of justification of the probability and the relevant facts supporting this probability are always a source of debate.  Basically, people need to question the supporting facts one is using to argue, the process used for the argument and the conclusions reached.  In short, people need to debate their issues.

Lately, the problem has become that people not only emotionalize rational debates, but also moralize it in line with political correctness.  It is true that political correctness is important to ensure civilized behaviour.  For example, calling people on nasty names to stereotype them and creating a negative picture of an entire group of people is unacceptable.  However, political correctness has gone too far lately.  Let’s take the example of illegal immigration.  The law says that anybody who enters a country needs permission of the country to enter it.  This means that to legally enter a country, one needs a passport.  If the person enters a country without a passport by evading the authorities at the border crossing, the person has broken the law because he or she entered the country illegally.  The word is “illegal” because it is a form of trespassing, which is against the law in all civilized countries.  Unfortunately, due to political correctness, the term “illegal” became an unpalatable word.  It was replaced by the word “undocumented”, which actually means something else.  The point is that political correctness has been taken to a level where, not only civilized behaviour is ensured in the interest of fairness and justice, but also distortion of the rules and laws of society has taken place to score political points.  The problem is that political correctness has been taken too far.

Moreover, this political correctness is being moralized.  To stay with the example of illegal immigration, people who protest the idea of changing the word “illegal” have been shunned by the movement that insists on the word “undocumented”.  People who would like political correctness to be reined in are looked at as not only wrong, but as morally inferior, uncompassionate, and even evil.  Basically, the issue has been moralized.  This is no longer a rational debate, but a moralized issue where people are either on the right side or the wrong side of the argument.

This is alarming.  Free speech is based on the idea of rational argumentation where the argument is based on valid facts and well-thought out supporting ideas.  It should be free of moralizing the argument in such a way where holding a well-formulated point of view is automatically thought to be wrong and shameful.  This is a sign of the loss of human freedom because people are hesitant to disagree in fear of persecution in the form of being shunned by others.  Lack of disagreement in this atmosphere creates a political society where only one vision dominates.  Basically, human beings fall prey for what Martin Heidegger calls the “they” or “the anonymous one”.

Heidegger argues that in an inauthentic mode of living, people exists in the mode of the anonymous one.  It means that one’s unique self is depersonalized and reduced to exist and fit into the world of customs, habits and conventions of everyday life.  In this everyday life, the person conforms to the public opinions and accepts their standards.  He or she becomes the anonymous one who thinks what the public thinks, feels what the public feels and does what the public does.

Pressuring people to become the anonymous one through a type of political correctness that has been taken too far means destroying people’s authentic self where they can freely exists with their genuine opinions and being able to express them without fear of public shaming.  It means the enforcement of the anonymous society where an idealized moral judgment destroys people’s ability to disagree with others.

Free speech is precious.  It needs to be defended, not just from legal threats using legislative powers, but also from psychological and cultural pressures by leaving the moralizing techniques out of it.  People’s opinions may be judged to be wrong, but they should not be judged to be morally inferiour just because they disagree with the polite society or the current political standard of correctness.  Free speech should be free even  if one does not like what the other person has to say.

M. J. Mandoki