A Riddle

I love freedom of speech. No other mechanism liberates man more than the right to speak truth, and no ideal better fosters debate where truth can be learned. In essence, I want to be pro truth, indeed I worship the Truth.

But debate is uncomfortable, messy, and often no clarity is gained; and man liberated becomes more devil than saint. Yet, to be devils or saints, to find truth or become lost in a mire of semantics, is a better place, a better thing, to be. Better, I say, than a senseless brute searching for food, or a slave controlled by a master.

But the real problem is this, a problem I think Plato recognized in democracy, that freedom of speech can be used to snuff itself. You can use speech to quell speech, either by shouting it down in a bleating chorus, or by arguing for its restriction. Freedom of speech can be turned against itself.

Without some unquestionable support, freedom of speech—that is the freedom to question—cannot withstand its own weight. In the absence of an exception, the rule falls apart. I am left with this riddle: To be free you must submit, and to stand you must bow.

Usually I don’t ask for comments, but this time I want to hear people’s thoughts. What is the answer? Is there something we can pin our freedoms on?

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