Thursday, April 21, 2011

Freedom of speech is a 'right': Says WHO exactly?

A notion that needs to be challenged: that "freedom of speech" is a "right"? Where exactly did that notion come from? That's up there with the notion that everyone has the "right" to pursue "happiness". Is it now? Is everyone entitled to be "happy"? Both of those notions are enshrined in Western philosophy. But just because they are such does not make them absolutes in the natural scheme of things. Both of these are human constructs and it just so happens that we live in societies that have woven these notions into the very fabric of their thinking.

No doubt to be "free" and "happy" are nice things to have. But to see them as "rights" is an artificial notion ingrained in our heads by generations of ambient messages -- the victory of the "allies" in World War II, the Cold War, wars against "terror" and stuff like that. All noble ideals of course. But artificial constructs just the same. By saying these are absolutes, people frame their thinking using a very small subset of humanity's vast range of philosophies (in the process progressively imprisoning themsleves into ever convoluted dogmatic frameworks). Western philosophy just happens to be the philosophy we live by. But that does not necessarily mean it is the only one.

So let us all think carefully before we make any assertions about any "absolutes". Doing so is the height of intellectual hubris and the mark of wannabe "philosophers" who have swallowed other people's thinking right off the shelf hook line and sinker.

[This post is based on a comment made in the article "Do Filipinos know how to use their freedom of speech?" published on Get Real Post.]


  1. Your argument is flawed and I think unintentionally ironic. Instead of "absolute", consider using "universal". They can both be used as antonyms of "relative" (ie., Universality/Absolutism vs. Relativism) I assume that fits your stance, no?

    The problem is in the following:

    'So let us all think carefully before we make any assertions about any "absolutes". Doing so is the height of intellectual hubris and the mark of wannabe "philosophers"'...

    When you say that doing so IS the height of intellectual hubris, you are making an absolute statement which marks you as a wannabe philosopher. That's not an attack. It's a critique.

    Also, you make a strawman argument by asking, 'Is everyone entitled to be "happy"?' Of course not, but is the right in the pursuit or in the possession? I clearly read that it is the former.

    Finally, I have to ask if you don't find it a bit ironic that you write freely on your blog against free speech?

    BTW- I am an Absurdist. My notion on the nature of "rights" is likely quite different from yours. However, in this context, we should at least consider the strength of the social contact. If people and their governments can agree on a supposed right and preserve that right, then we "have" that right. It's more a recognition than a granting.

  2. Nah, I don't make any statements that make any claim to be "absolutes". I merely express opinions that I can back up with logical arguments. You seem to have latched on to the "IS" (your caps) and interpreted it as a qualifier to your conclusion that I claim this view to be an "absolute". That's another instance of this quibbling on terminology that I highlighted earlier.

    Just a question for you, though: What makes you think I am "against free speech"?

    As to your being an "absurdist", if being so makes you happy, hey, I've got no problem with that. One more happy person in this world means one less sad one.

    But do keep on trying, though. You're making a bit of progress. :-D

  3. For once I agree with Benign0. Stop listening to these Western ideologies. Why adopt the values of our oppressors? Reality/perception is subjective, ergo relative. Hence the Filipino's moral relativism (treating people differently, according to your relation to them) is superior to this flawed western concept of objectivity.

    There are no absolutes. This frees the Filipino to adopt whatever reasoning the situation calls for to maximize his personal gain. Why constrain your set of actions to a false belief in fairness and truth?

    This is what makes the Filipino Great. We don't have to stand for anything.

  4. flawed at best. so who yanked your chain?

  5. I'll tell you if you convince me first that it is all, as you say, "flawed at best".


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