Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition / Edition 1

Courting the Abyss: Free Speech and the Liberal Tradition / Edition 1

by John Durham Peters
     
 

Courting the Abyss updates the philosophy of free expression for a world that is very different from the one in which it originated. The notion that a free society should allow Klansmen, neo-Nazis, sundry extremists, and pornographers to spread their doctrines as freely as everyone else has come increasingly under fire. At the same time, in the wake of 9/11,See more details below

Overview

Courting the Abyss updates the philosophy of free expression for a world that is very different from the one in which it originated. The notion that a free society should allow Klansmen, neo-Nazis, sundry extremists, and pornographers to spread their doctrines as freely as everyone else has come increasingly under fire. At the same time, in the wake of 9/11, the Right and the Left continue to wage war over the utility of an absolute vision of free speech in a time of increased anxieties about national security. Courting the Abyss revisits the tangled history of free speech, finding resolutions to these debates hidden at the very roots of the liberal tradition.

A mesmerizing account of the role of public communication in the Anglo-American world, Courting the Abyss shows that liberty's earliest advocates recognized its fraternal relationship with wickedness and evil. While we understand freedom of expression to mean "anything goes," John Durham Peters asks why its advocates so often celebrate a sojourn in hell and the overcoming of suffering. He directs us to such well-known sources as the prose and poetry of John Milton and the political and philosophical theory of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., as well as lesser-known sources such as the theology of Paul of Tarsus. In various ways they all, he shows, envisioned an attitude of self-mastery or self-transcendence as a response to the inevitable dangers of free speech, a troubled legacy that continues to inform ruling norms about knowledge, ethical responsibility, and democracy today.

A world of gigabytes, undiminished religious passion, and relentless scientific discovery calls for a fresh account of liberty that recognizes its risk and its splendor. Instead of celebrating noxious doctrine as proof of society's robustness, Courting the Abyss invites us to rethink public communication today by looking more deeply into the unfathomable mystery of liberty and evil.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226662749
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
04/01/2005
Edition description:
1
Pages:
316
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

John Durham Peters is F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa. He is coeditor of several volumes and the author of Speaking into the Air, also published by the University of Chicago Press.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Hard-Hearted Liberalism
The Intellectual Options Today
Liberals, Civil Libertarians, and Liberalism
The Free Speech Story
Self-Abstraction and Stoicism
The Method of Perversity
Chapter 1. Saint Paul's Shudder
The Puzzle of Paul
The Case of Meat at Corinth
The Privilege of the Other
In Praise of Impersonality
Hosting Dangerous Discourse
Stoic, Rhetorician, Jew
Chapter 2. "Evil Be Thou My Good": Milton and Abyss-Redemption
Areopagitica, a Misplaced Classic
Provoking Objects
Scouting into the Regions of Sin
Dramatis Personae
The Morality of Transgression
Chapter 3. Publicity and Pain
The Public Realm as Sublimation
Locke's Project of Self-Discipline
Adam Smith and the Fortunate Impossibility of Sympathy
Mill and the Historical Recession of Pain
Stoic Ear, Romantic Voice
Publicity and Pain
Chapter 4. Homeopathic Machismo in Free Speech Theory
The Traumatophilic First Amendment
Holmes and Hardness
Brandeis and Noxious Doctrine
Skokie Subjectivity
Hardball Public Space and the Suspended Soul
Impersonality, or Openness to Strangeness
Chapter 5. Social Science as Public Communication
Positivism as Civic Discipline
The Arts of Chaste Discourse
Democracy and Numbers
Objectivity and Self-Mortification
Medical Composure
Ways to Rehearse Death
Chapter 6. "Watch, Therefore": Suffering and the Informed Citizen
Catharsis
Compassion
Courage
Pity and Its Critics
News and the Everlasting Now
Chapter 7. "Meekness as a Dangerous Activity": Witnessing as Participation
Witnessing with the Body
Witnessing from Captivity
Persons as Objects
Martin Luther King's Principled Passivity
Transcendental Buffoonery
Democracy and Imperfection
Conclusion: Responsibility to Things That Are Not
The Sustainability of Free Expression
The Wages of Stoicism
Afterword
Acknowledgments
Index

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