An Essay Regarding the Right to Change One’s Mind

By Collin Wynter

I reserve the right to change my mind, at any time, as many times as needed, when provided with any evidence contrary to my current state of thought. If any evidence that I currently base my statements on is shown to be false, I shall also modify my beliefs accordingly. 

I refuse to feel shame, embarrassment or obstinance for changing my views.

I will proactively admit when I am wrong and applaud whomever had the temerity to speak against me in a civil manner. If at times I misspeak, speak about things I am unsure of, or appear to be confused, I shall require the help of others to act as willing participants to assist in guiding my thought process to a place that is better suited to examine matters at hand.

I disavow any endeavour that seeks to shame, discredit, or manipulate the mind or behaviour of an individual, in an attempt to indoctrinate them into an ideology that someone else holds to be true.

Only through dialogue are we able to to discern knowledge about reality, whether that dialogue be conversation, narrative, experience, mathematics or the scientific method. 

That is why freedom of speech is a necessary fundamental human right. Speech, as a member of inalienable rights, is required for a liberal democracy to exist. We can broaden the term to be freedom of expression; being that it is intertwined with freedom of speech. While language may be focused on assembling phonemes, words, grammar. Ideas are also transmitted via art, science, and culture .

It is ideas that I am concerned about. Ideas that have benefit and merit; 

to combat ideologies that cause harm. The concept of indoctrination.

The ideology of hate speech is such a concern. The trumpeting silencer of anyones right to speak in terms not sanctified by the others. The idea that hate speech must be curtailed, sought out, hunted, abolished from the public sphere. The hubris to believe that experts can determine what is universally hated so as to be censored. 

Freedom of speech does not protect the right to say anything: harassment, libel, blackmail- are not aspects of free speech; and do not necessarily require speech to be entailed.

The right to free speech is to protects ones right to speak. Not to protect ones feelings. As Helen Pluckrose and James A. Lindsay point out: “You have the right to speak. You have the right not to speak You have the right to listen. You have the right not to listen”.

People must be allowed to speak, and misspeak, and lie, and say hateful and hurtful things. People must be allowed to be corrected, and shown evidence, and compassion, and to perceive modelled behaviour of how to have open dialogue. The ideology of hate speech, in the rubric of safetyism, to protect one from harm, must not be an identity of education for which to indoctrinate our youth. Safetyism will only become a barrier to hinder free speech. 

Trepidation to speak, for fear of causing harm, is tantamount to gagging liberalism with the yoke of socialism. There will be no risk. Only assurances. A reliance on others to think for you, tell you what to say, speak for you. An artificially induced grammar program presenting your sentences as likes.

How will we ever connect with one another, if we cannot trust ourselves to speak? How will we ever learn the truth, if we fear of telling falsehoods? How can we gain confidence, when our language is monitored, controlled, directed, dictated. To be required to say the right thing, may not be the same as saying the correct thing. A poisoning of the well of the mind, our thoughts undermined. 

What will change your mind? What can be said to make you think otherwise? Is there any evidence presented contrary to your current belief system that may shake you out of this stupor? Or is it the paradigm of hate speech maintaining a righteous presence to be your guide?

John Stuart Mill said in On Liberty:

“If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

And as Bertrand Russell notes in Dictionary of Mind, Matter and Morals:

“I have been accused of a habit of changing my opinions. I am not myself in any degree ashamed of having changed my opinions. What physicist who was already active in 1900 would dream of boasting that his opinions had not changed during the last half century? In science men change their opinions when new knowledge becomes available; but philosophy in the minds of many is assimilated rather to theology than to science. The kind of philosophy that I value and have endeavoured to pursue is scientific, in the sense that there is some definite knowledge to be obtained and that new discoveries can make the admission of former error inevitable to any candid mind. For what I have said, whether early or late, I do not claim the kind of truth which theologians claim for their creeds. I claim only, at best, that the opinion expressed was a sensible one to hold at the time when it was expressed. I should be much surprised if subsequent research did not show that it needed to be modified. I hope, therefore, that whoever uses this dictionary will not suppose the remarks which it quotes to be intended as pontifical pronouncements, but only as the best I could do at the time towards the promotion of clear and accurate thinking. Clarity, above all, has been my aim.”

Published by Collin Wynter

Exploring rights of our freedom of expression and justice

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