Jordan Peterson on Free Speech and the Right to Offend

In the video below, Jordan Peterson is interviewed by ABC’s Leigh Sales, where the two discuss whether or not, the right to offend an individual through one’s speech is a necessary trade off in order to reach the truth.

Jordan Peterson makes the argument that when a contentious topic is discussed, it is inevitable that x amount of people are more than likely going to be offended.

Leigh Sales asks Jordan Peterson if ‘being sensitive to offense is such a problem? Like we would have previously called that manners.’ To which he responds ‘it is a terrible problem.’ He makes the point that it is perhaps possible to mitigate potential offense when engaging with one individual, but is practically impossible when engaging with numerous people at, for example, a lecture.

The idea that it is bad manners to offend someone when seeking the truth places an individual’s subjective feelings as a higher priority than reaching truth through speech.

This negates the importance of considering facts and opens the door for subjectivity (over objectivity) to dictate the conclusions that one comes to.

The facts are what the facts are. If someone is offended by facts, they are consequently offended by truth. If these individuals are the ones that are able to determine conclusions regarding contentious topics, causation can be incorrectly diagnosed and potentially be used as a weapon to silence those with whom they may disagree.

In the pursuit of truth, individuals engaging in robust discussion, with the intention of reaching the truth, will undoubtedly enter territory that is offensive.

Without the intention to offend, offense can be tolerated as a necessary consequence of truth seeking.

As the video progresses, the discussion shifts towards potential legislation regarding compelled speech. This is a dangerous path to travel and Jordan Peterson makes the point that if this road were to be trodden, it is the last people in the world you would want determining what is and what is not acceptable speech. He acknowledges that hate speech obviously exists, but argues that it is extremely difficult to define, and as a result, impossible to legislate.

Watch the video here:

SHARE using the button below:

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *