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Ovi Symposium; forty-sixth Meeting
by The Ovi Symposium
2015-02-26 09:22:43
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Ovi Symposium:

“A Philosophical Conversation on the Nature of Art within Modernity
and the Envisioning of a New Humanism”

between Ms Abigail George, Mr Nikos Laios, Drs. Paolozzi, Paparella and Mr. Rywalt
Forty-sixth Meeting: 26 February 2015



Symposium's regular participants (in alphabetical order)

abigailAbigail George is an African activist for human rights, a feminist, writer and poet. She has received writing grants from the National Arts Council, Centre for the Book, and ECPACC (Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council). She is not purely devoted to poetry but to pursuing writing fulltime. She has written two volumes of poetry, and her latest book is titled Winter in Johannesburg. Storytelling for her has always been a phenomenal way of communicating and making a connection with other people. All About My Mother (a collection of short stories) was published by Ovi magazine in July 2012.

laios_01Nikos Laios is a poet, artist, lover of philosophy and student of the human condition, currently writing poetry and producing art; he is also a sculptor, a photographer, widely read in the humanities. He hails from the highlands of Epirus in Greece; greatly influenced by the poetic traditions which have been passed down from his poet ancestor on his maternal side from the island of Cephalonia. He currently resides in North Sydney Australia, is an autodidact and a passionate ‘renaissance’ man, has always been a practical philosopher, throwing himself into the hard questions that life has to offer in search of elusive gems of wisdom.

enDr.Ernesto Paolozzi teaches history of contemporary philosophy at the University Suor Orsola Benincasa of Naples. A Croce scholar and an expert on historicism, he has written widely and published several books, especially on aesthetics and liberalism vis a vis science. His book Benedetto Croce: The Philosophy of History and the Duty of Freedom was printed as an e-book in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

papDr. Emanuel Paparella has a Ph.D. in Italian Humanism with a dissertation on Giambattista Vico from Yale University. He currently teaches philosophy at Barry University and Broward College in Florida, USA. One of his books is titled Hermeneutics in the Philosophy of G. Vico, Mellen Press. His latest e-book Aesthetic Theories of Great Western Philosophers was printed in Ovi magazine in June 2013.

rywaltEdwin Rywalt is a computer specialist living in Pennsylvania with his family. He is a talented and accomplished pianist with a college education from Columbia University and a life---long scholarly interest in the nexus between science, technology, and the liberal arts. Beginning in May 2014 he will be offering pro bono services to the Ovi Symposium with typo correction editing and other useful suggestions aiming at improving the overall format of the twice a month section of Ovi magazine. Perhaps in the future, if his commitments allow it, he may decide to join the Symposium’s ongoing dialogue.


Subtheme of session 46: The Limits of Free Speech

Indirect Participants within the Great Conversation across the ages: Voltaire, Fish, Plato, M’bala, Mill, Hobbes, Hitchens, Bonaparte, Friedman, Jefferson, Noonan, Austen, Hubbard, Demartini, Socrates, Malcolm X, Lincoln, Kennedy, Biko, Lumumba, Joel, Buddha, Hughes, Mukhopathyyey, Moses, Jonah, Noah, Elijah, Daniel, Solon, Aristophanes, Locke, Voltaire, Kant, Newton, Hume, Spinoza, Descartes, Galilei, Dante, Euripides, Aeschilus, Sophocles, Nietzsche.


Table of Contents for the 45th Session of the Ovi Symposium (26 February 2015)

Preamble by the Symposium’s coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 1: “Are there Limits to Free Speech?—A revisiting with Cartoons Added.”  A Presentation by Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 2: An exchange of ideas on the issue of free speech between Ernesto Paolozzi and Emanuel L. Paparella

Section 3: “On Her Own Terms: the Aesthetics of Free Speech: Tech and the (African) Feminist.” A Presentation by Abigail George

Section 4: A comment by Abigail George on this meeting’s presentations.

Section 5: “The Unexamined Life is not worth Living for a Human Being --' δ νεξέταστος βίος ο βιωτς νθρώπ'”. A Presentation by Nikos Laios.

Section 6: Sundry comments by Emanuel L. Paparella on Nikos Laios’ presentation.

Section 7: A Response by Nikos Laios to Emanuel L. Paparella’s comments.



Preamble by the Symposium’s Coordinator Emanuel L. Paparella

In this 46th meeting of the Ovi symposium we revisit an issue that lately has assumed center stage on the international media; namely free speech as a right inherent in free democratic societies and discuss its limitations. We begin in section one with a presentation by yours truly which tackles the problem head on by asking the question, if indeed there are limitations, what exactly are they and why. The issue has already been introduced for discussion in Ovi but here we examine it in greater depth.

The presentation, in fact begins with the elucidation of a controversial book titled There is no Such Thing as Free Speech by Stanley Fish which appeared in 1994. It proposes that freedom, and therefore free speech also, is never an absolute right in and by itself: it should always be followed by the proposition “for” asking “freedom for what.” Indeed, there are limits and the limits essentially have to do with the prudent discrimination between free speech which respects historical facts and the their truth, and slander, often ignoring historical facts and motivated by bias and intolerance, often hiding behind free speech and religion. A terrorist has no claim to the support of any religion which in as much as it is a religion remains in favor of peace and life. The sociopath may call him/herself a Moslem or a Christian or a Hindu but he/she remains essentially a sociopath with a nefarious political  agenda.

Before proceeding to the introduction of the next two presentations, I wish to furnish to the reader a brief rationale for the inclusion of various gruesome cartoons. They are there as a graphic illustration to the Ovi readership of the distressing nature of what is being analysed. Some readers may find them a bit crude; I too find them personally disturbing, but they are not placed there for the fomenting of the aesthetically and ethically ugly, but in order to motivate their viewers, perhaps even more than mere words ever can, to seriously reflect on this thorny issue. As Paolozzi points out in his illuminating comments, the core issue seems to be this: how can we show respect for people’s beliefs and at the same time preserve our values of free speech and freedom? Are the two incompatible and mutually exclusive or can they be held together dialectically?

After all, with what weapons can intellectuals who oppose the violations of human rights fight such a disturbing and highly objectionable phenomenon as the decapitation and the burning of innocent people? The only effective weapons available to them are the pen and the pencil. In the long run those weapons may turn out to be more effective than the abusive sword wielded by sociopaths and bullies to declare that “might makes right.” To the contrary, what the pen and the pencil declare is that “might is for right” and that such  conception of power may be essential for retaining one’s humanity. On the other hand, the pen and the pencil too can be abused when the historical facts and the truth are not respected and slander is engaged in.

In section two, by way of an exchange of ideas, we have a lucid reflection on the issue by Ernesto Paolozzi responding to my presentation. This is a sterling example of what a symposium, from time immemorial, is all about: a cordial and civil exchange of ideas, or better, a friendly dialogue among people who share an overarching philosophical value: the search for truth, and in doing so pursue a journey on whatever paths truth may lead. Surely the Ovi readers have noticed that in this magazine philosophy occupies a privileged pride of place.  

In section three Abigail George begins with the same provocative statement as Fish’s book which declares in its title that “there is no such thing as free speech.” Her presentation begins with this declaration: “The idea of free speech does not exist for me.” The reader should notice that she does not say that free speech does not exist, or that free expression should not be promoted, but that its idea does not exist for her because she equates it to feminism. In fact, most feminists do not subscribe to abstract ideas and principles for their own sake to be invoked in order to send young men to die in wars declared by old men in the name of those “principles.” The feminist’s ethos is more a ethos of care than one of principles. She then proceeds to explain that intriguing juxtaposition of feminism and free speech by delving into her own uniquely African feminist intellectual literary experience.

Somewhat like Fish we are led to the insight, arrived more via literature than via philosophy however, that indeed freedom of speech is not an absolute value in itself but it is a means for something more important: to arrive at the truth via language or speech. It is necessary in order to get out of the cave of the deceiving senses and reach for the sun (Truth) outside the cave in the realm of the intelligible. Whether or not any of us ever gets to the absolute truth here on earth only God knows, as Plato quips, but to give up the effort is to refuse to live as a human being. To know what human nature is and how to live as a human being is after all our ultimate duty here in this temporal world.

In section four Abigail George too, like Ernesto Paolozzi, responds to the other contributors’ presentations by sharing her own deeply personal reflections on her experiences of free speech.

In section five Nikos Laios presents us with his second imaginative contribution to the Ovi Symposium and he begins with that most wise of Socratic saying, that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” He returns to the very origins of free speech in ancient Athens to trace its evolution within Western history. What I detect as most insightful in his presentation is the false duality he identifies: religion and free speech, or faith and reason, or the rational and the poetical or artistic, or body and mind, which some misguided anthropologists of culture consider as mutually exclusive. He appeals to Nietzsche’s portrayal of human nature as characterized by the Apollonian or rational and by the Dionysian or poetical to intimate that indeed the two are not mutually exclusive but complementary to each other and that to discard one or the other is to truncate human nature with all the consequences that we have seen in our modern positivistic times wherein the scientific is emphasized and the poetical is rejected as anachronistic and anti-progressive. The ancient Greeks knew better than to make those kind of reductionistic intellectual operations. That way lies dehumanization as several modern philosophers, among whom the philosopher of religion and existentialist Soren Kierkegaard have amply warned us.

In section six I have appended sundry comments on some points in Nikos Laios’ presentation that I do not find fully persuasive and that perhaps need to be revisited and debated in the Symposium and elsewhere in the magazine.

In section seven Nikos Laios adds comments to the ongoing dialogue on free speech and responds directly to the points raised by Emanuel L. Paparella. Thus all the contributors to this hot topic dealt with in this meeting have in some way exhibited what Paolozzi aptly calls the taking of “freedom’s gamble” thus exemplifying Socrates and John Stuart Mill’s notion that “freedom of speech” is a necessary pre-condition for getting out of the cave of the senses (which includes science) into what Plato calls the world of the intelligible where interpretation (hermeneutics) rather than scientific deterministic laws is predominant. In the realm of the intelligible truth may be contemplated as the sun outside the cave. In the realm of science all one can find are deterministic laws useful for instrumental utilitarian purposes but hardly leading to truth. All sacred books or mythologies are open to interpretation, not unlike the poetical and the artistically creative. Unfortunately, to confuse them for scientific treatises which one can then caricature and debunk by subjecting them to scientific testing is to arrive at the enormous positivistic mistake of considering the religious and the rational as mutually exclusive. They are not; in fact they can complement each other dialectically.   

Finally, allow me to, once again, exhort the readership to join our philosophical conversation via the comment section, thus fulfilling one of the symposium’s goal: that of involving like-minded persons in our exploratory intellectual journeys. There is nothing more encouraging for such rigorous and arduous enterprise than the sympathetic response of an interested inquisitive audience willing to join the conversation. In any case, whether active or passive, we at the symposium wish to thank all interested readers for the privilege of their time and attention.


Are there Limits to Free Speech?-- A Revisiting with Cartoons Added
Emanuel L. Paparella


In 1994 the philosopher of law Stanley Fish published a provocative book titled There is No Such Thing as Free Speech in which he outlined the topic of free speech as one of the most contentious issues in liberal societies. In the light of the recent tragic and deplorable events in Paris and Copenaghen, the issue has heated up again and, in my opinion, deserves a revisiting. Let us first review, once more, Fish’s book.

Fish asserts that if the liberty to express oneself is not highly valued, as has often been the case, there is no problem: freedom of expression is simply curtailed in favor of other values. Free speech becomes a volatile issue when it is highly valued because only then do the limitations placed upon it become controversial. The first thing to note in any sensible but passionate discussion of freedom of speech is that it will have to be limited. Every society places some limits on the exercise of speech because speech always takes place within a context of competing values. In this sense, Stanley Fish is correct when he says that there is no such thing as free speech. Free speech is simply a useful term to focus our attention on a particular form of human interaction and the phrase is not meant to suggest that speech should never be interfered with. As Fish puts it, “free speech in short, is not an independent value but a political prize.”  No society has yet existed where speech has not been limited to some extent. As John Stuart Mill argued in On Liberty, a struggle always takes place between the competing demands of liberty and authority, and we cannot have the latter without the former.


The task, therefore, is not to argue for an unlimited domain of free speech; such a concept cannot be defended. Instead, we need to decide how much value we place on speech in relation to the value we place on other important ideals. As Fish puts it: “speech, in short, is never a value in and of itself but is always produced within the precincts of some assumed conception of the good.” This also applies to freedom which too has its limitations and it is never an absolute value in itself; freedom is always for the sake of some other value such as the good, never an end in itself. What are those other important ideals? The Constitution of the US begins with a list of desirable goods which makes independence worthwhile; free speech is not one of them; it is merely a means to those ends.


The cartoons attached to this article make the point better than many words. Many countries have laws limiting free speech, and on paper most hate-speech rules do not discriminate against any particular faith or group. In Britain, recent prosecutions include a white supremacist convicted of sending a threatening anti-Semitic tweet to a lawmaker; a Muslim teenager tried for posting on Facebook that "all soldiers should die and go to hell"; and a 22-year-old man jailed for posting anti-Muslim comments on Facebook after two al-Qaida-inspired attackers murdered soldier Lee Rigby. French law bans promoting racial or religious hatred, as well as inciting or defending terrorism or crimes against humanity. Blasphemy, in contrast, is not illegal in France, so Charlie Hebdo's mockery of religion is regarded differently. It appears that there is a double standard at work here. Free speech applies to those who mock Islam while Muslims are penalized for expressing their own provocative views. Many Muslims complain that France aggressively prosecutes anti-Semitic slurs, but that they are not protected from similar racist speech. French police have arrested more than 70 people since the attacks for allegedly defending or glorifying terrorism. The most famous is comedian Dieudonne M'bala M'bala, charged over a Facebook post saying "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly" — a merger of the names of magazine Charlie Hebdo and Amedy Coulibaly, the attacker who killed four hostages at the supermarket. The comic also has repeatedly been prosecuted for anti-Semitism, but what he may be doing is demonstrating that satire is ok when it applies to one group of people but not ok when it applies to another. Lady Justice is not blind but all too discriminating in what she hears and what she punishes. I find it intriguing that Charlie Hebdo has been sued for slander repeatedly and not only by Moslems but by Catholics. It got away with it by claiming that the paper was an equal opportunity satirist and that it was not the religion per se that is being attacked but the extremists in that religion. Many do not find that defense very persuasive; equal opportunity ought to mean that all, including secular institutions sacred to every patriot, are desecrated and blasphemed. As it is, the demarcation between hate speech and religious satire is not always clear cut.


John Keane, an Australian political scientist who has studied the history of Islam in Europe, said the arrests add to a widespread perception among Muslims that "the satirizing of Jewish people and the insult of Jewish people is not permitted under French law, and yet that same principle, for the moment, does not apply to Muslims."

Be that as it may, John Stuart Mill presented one of the first, and still perhaps the most famous liberal defense of free speech. In the footnote at the beginning of Chapter II of On Liberty, Mill makes a very bold statement: "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.” This indeed is a very strong defense of free speech; Mill tells us that any doctrine should be allowed the light of day no matter how immoral it may seem to everyone else. Mill claims that the fullest liberty of expression is required to push our arguments to their logical limits, rather than the limits of social embarrassment. Such liberty of expression is necessary, he suggests, for the dignity of persons. But Mill also suggests that we need some rules of conduct to regulate the actions of members of a political community. The limitation he places on free expression is one very simple principle, now usually referred to as the Harm Principle, which states that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”


The limits on free speech will be very narrow because it is difficult to support the claim that most speech causes harm to the rights of others. This is the position staked out by Mill in the first two chapters of On Liberty and it is hard to imagine a more liberal position. Liberals find it very difficult to defend free speech once it can be demonstrated that its practice does actually invade the rights of others.

The next logical question is: what types of speech, if any, cause harm?” Once we can answer this question, we have found the appropriate limits to free expression. The example Mill uses is in reference to corn dealers; he suggests that it is acceptable to claim that corn dealers starve the poor if such a view is expressed through the medium of the printed page. It is not acceptable to express the same view to an angry mob, ready to explode, that has gathered outside the house of the corn dealer. The difference between the two is that the latter is an expression “such as to constitute…a positive instigation to some mischievous act,” namely, to place the rights, and possibly the life, of the corn dealer in danger. Mill distinguishes between legitimate and illegitimate harm, and it is only when speech causes a direct and clear violation of rights that it can be limited. The fact that Mill does not count accusations of starving the poor as causing legitimate harm to the rights of corn dealers suggests he wished to apply the harm principle sparingly. Other examples where the harm principle may apply include libel laws, blackmail, advertising blatant untruths about commercial products, advertising dangerous products to children (e.g. cigarettes), and securing truth in contracts. In most of these cases, it is possible to make an argument that harm has been committed and that rights have been violated.


There are other instances when the harm principle has been invoked but where it is more difficult to demonstrate that rights have been violated. Perhaps the most obvious example of this is the debate over pornography. In recent times the cause against pornography has been joined by some feminists who have maintained that pornography degrades, endangers, and harms the lives of women. This argument, to have force, must distinguish between pornography as a general class of material (aimed at sexual arousal) and pornography that causes harm by depicting acts that violently abuse women. If it can be demonstrated that this latter material significantly increases the risk that men will commit acts of physical violence against women, the harm principle can legitimately be invoked.


When pornography involves young children, most people will accept that it should be prohibited because of the harm that is being done to persons under the age of consent. It has proved much more difficult to make the same claim for consenting adults. Remember that Mill's formulation of the harm principle suggests only speech that directly harms the rights of others in an illegitimate manner should be banned.

One of the most contentious aspects of the issue of the limits of free speech is the offensiveness of hate speech. Most liberal democracies have limitations on hate speech, but can they be justified by the harm principle as formulated by Mill? One would have to show that such speech violated rights, directly and in the first instance. A famous example of hate speech is the Nazi march through Skokie, Illinois. In fact, the intention was not to engage in political speech at all, but simply to march through a predominantly Jewish community dressed in storm trooper uniforms and wearing swastikas (although the Illinois Supreme Court interpreted the wearing of swastikas as “symbolic political speech”). It is clear that most people, especially those who lived in Skokie, were outraged and offended by the march, but were they harmed? There was no plan to cause physical injury and the marchers did not intend to damage property.


There are two basic responses to the harm principle as a means of limiting speech. One is that it is too narrow; the other is that it is too broad. This latter view is not often expressed because most people think that free speech should be limited if it does cause illegitimate harm. If we want to limit speech because of harm then we will have to ban a lot of political speech. Most of it is useless, a lot of it is offensive, and some of it causes harm because it is deceitful, and because it is aimed at discrediting specific groups. It also undermines democratic citizenship and stirs up nationalism and jingoism, which results in harm to citizens of other countries.


Some consider religious speech as even worse than political discourse because it too is hateful, useless, dishonest, and ferments war, bigotry and fundamentalism. It also creates bad self-image and feelings of guilt that can haunt persons throughout their lives. Pornography and hate speech cause nowhere near as much harm as political and religious speech. In point of fact, any religion worth its salt, one that is not a cult of sort, leaves the individual free to express his/her opinions freely. The harm principle would actually allow religious and political speech for the same reasons that it allows pornography and hate speech, namely that it is not possible to demonstrate that such speech does cause direct harm to rights. It is doubtful that Mill would support using his arguments about harm to ban political and religious speech.


Others opine that the harm principle does not reach far enough, that the harm principle cannot shoulder all of the work necessary for a principle of free speech. In some instances we may need an offense principle that can act as a guide to public censure. The basic idea is that the harm principle sets the bar too high and that we can legitimately prohibit some forms of expression because they are very offensive. Such a principle is difficult to apply because many people take offense as the result of an overly sensitive disposition, or worse, because of bigotry and unjustified prejudice. At other times some people can be deeply offended by statements that others find mildly amusing. The furor over the Danish and French cartoons culminating with an outrageous massacre in January 2015 brings this starkly to the fore. Despite the difficulty of applying a standard of this kind, something like the offense principle operates widely in liberal democracies where citizens are penalized for a variety of activities, including speech that would escape prosecution under the harm principle. Wandering around the local shopping mall naked, or engaging in sexual acts in public places are two obvious examples.


There is little doubt in most people’s minds that hate speech causes profound and personal offense. The discomfort that is caused to those who are the object of such attacks cannot easily be shrugged off. As in the case of violent pornography, the offense that is caused by the march through Skokie cannot be avoided simply by staying off the streets because the offense is taken over the bare knowledge that the march is taking place. The intensity of the offense is particularly acute with hate speech because it is aimed at a relatively small and specific audience. The motivations of the speakers in the Skokie example seemed to be to incite fear and hatred and to directly insult the members of the community with Nazi symbols. When fighting words are used to provoke people who are prevented by law from using a fighting response, the offense is profound enough to allow for prohibition. It is clear, therefore, that the crucial component of the offense principle is the avoidability of the offensive material. For the argument to be consistent, it must follow that many forms of hate speech should still be allowed if the offense is easily avoidable. Nazis can still meet in private places, or even in public ones that are easily bypassed. Advertisements for such meetings can be edited (because they are less easy to avoid) but should not be banned.


Very few liberals take the Millian view that only speech causing direct harm should be prohibited; most support some form of the offense principle. Some are willing to extend the realm of state interference further and argue that hate speech should be banned even if it does not cause harm or unavoidable offense. The reason it should be banned is that it is inconsistent with the underlying values of liberal democracy to brand some citizens as inferior to others on the grounds of race or sexual orientation. The same applies to pornography; it should be prevented because it is incompatible with democratic citizenship to portray women as sexual objects, who are often violently mistreated.


To argue the case above, one has to dilute one's support for freedom of expression in favor of other principles, such as equal respect for all citizens. This is a sensible approach according to Stanley Fish. He suggests that the task we face is not to arrive at hard and fast principles that govern all speech. Instead, we have to find a workable compromise that gives due weight to a variety of values. Supporters of this view will tend to remind us that when we are discussing free speech, we are not dealing with speech in isolation; what we are doing is comparing free speech with some other good. For instance, we have to decide whether it is better to place a higher value on speech than on the value of privacy, security, equality, or the prevention of harm. Stanley Fish suggests that we need to find a balance in which “we must consider in every case what is at stake and what are the risks and gains of alternative courses of action.” Is speech promoting or undermining our basic values? “If you don't ask this question, or some version of it, but just say that speech is speech and that's it, you are mystifying—presenting as an arbitrary and untheorized fiat—a policy that will seem whimsical or worse to those whose interests it harms or dismisses”


In other words, what Fish is suggesting is that there have to be reasons behind the argument to allow speech; we cannot simply say that the First Amendment says it is so, therefore it must be so. The task is not to come up with a principle that always favors expression, but rather, to decide what is good speech and what is bad speech, in other words, eliminate the abuses of free speech.


Hence, the boundaries of free speech cannot be set in stone by philosophical principles. It is the world of politics that decides what we can and cannot say, guided but not hidebound by the world of abstract philosophy. Free speech is about political victories and defeats. The very guidelines for marking off protected from unprotected speech are the result of this battle rather than truths in their own right.”  Speech always takes place in an environment of convictions, assumptions, and perceptions i.e., within the confines of a structured world. The thing to do is get out there and argue for one's position.


We should ask three questions according to Fish: “given that it is speech, what does it do, do we want it to be done, and is more to be gained or lost by moving to curtail it?”  He suggests that the answers we arrive at will vary according to the context. Free speech will be more limited in the military, where the underlying value is hierarchy and authority, than it will be at a university where one of the main values is the expression of ideas. Even on campus, there will be different levels of appropriate speech. Spouting off at the fountain in the center of campus should be less regulated than what a professor can say during a lecture. It might well be acceptable for me to spend an hour of my time explaining to passers-by why Manchester United is such a great football team but it would be completely inappropriate (and open to censure) to do the same thing when I am supposed to be giving a lecture on Thomas Hobbes. Fish contends that a campus is not simply a “free speech forum but a workplace where people have contractual obligations, assigned duties, pedagogical and administrative responsibilities.”  Almost all places in which we interact are governed by underlying values and hence speech will have to fit in with these principles: “regulation of free speech is a defining feature of everyday life” writes Fish. Thinking of speech in this way removes a lot of the mystique. Whether we should ban hate speech is just another problem along the lines of whether we should allow university professors to talk about football in lectures.


J.S. Mill does not seem to support the imposition of legal penalties unless they are sanctioned by the harm principle. As one would expect, Mill also seems to be worried by the use of social pressure as a means of limiting speech. Chapter III of On Liberty is an incredible assault on social censorship, expressed through the tyranny of the majority, because it produces stunted, pinched, hidebound and withered individuals: “everyone lives as under the eye of a hostile and dreaded censorship…”it does not occur to them to have any inclination except what is customary.” He continues: “the general tendency of things throughout the world is to render mediocrity the ascendant power among mankind…at present individuals are lost in the crowd…the only power deserving the name is that of masses…it does seem, however, that when the opinions of masses of merely average men are everywhere become or becoming the dominant power, the counterpoise and corrective to that tendency would be the more and more pronounced individuality of those who stand on the higher eminences of thought.” With these comments, and many of a similar ilk, Mill demonstrates his distaste of the apathetic, fickle, tedious, frightened and dangerous majority.

It is quite a surprise, therefore, to find that he also seems to embrace a fairly encompassing offense principle when the sanction does involve social disapprobation: “Again, there are many acts which, being directly injurious only to the agents themselves, ought not to be legally interdicted, but which, if done publicly, are a violation of good manners and, coming thus within the category of offenses against others, may rightly be prohibited. Similarly, he states that “The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance” In the latter parts of On Liberty Mill also suggests that distasteful persons can be held in contempt, that we can avoid such persons (as long as we do not parade it), that we can warn others against the persons, and that we can persuade, cajole and remonstrate with those we deem offensive. These actions are legitimate as the free expression of those who happen to be offended as long as they are done as a spontaneous response to the person's faults and not as a form of punishment.

But those who exhibit cruelty, malice, envy, insincerity, resentment and crass egoism are open to the greater sanction of disapprobation as a form of punishment, because these faults are wicked and are other-regarding. It may be true that these faults have an impact on others, but it is difficult to see how acting according to malice, envy or resentment necessarily violates the rights of others. The only way that Mill can make such claims is by expanding his argument to include an offense principle and hence give up on the harm principle as the only legitimate grounds for interference with behavior.

Liberals tend to defend freedom generally, and free speech in particular, for a variety of reasons beyond the harm principle; speech fosters authenticity, genius, creativity, individuality and human flourishing. Mill tells us specifically that if we ban speech the silenced opinion may be true, or contain a portion of the truth, and that unchallenged opinions become mere prejudices and dead dogmas that are inherited rather than adopted. These are empirical claims that require evidence. Is it likely that we enhance the cause of truth by allowing hate speech or violent and degrading forms of pornography?

It is worth pondering the relationship between speech and truth. If we had a graph where one axis was truth and the other was free speech, would we get one extra unit of truth for every extra unit of free speech? How can such a thing even be measured? Some argue that speech can be limited for the sake of other liberal values, particularly the concern for democratic equality; the claim is not that speech should always lose out when it clashes with other fundamental principles that underpin modern liberal democracies, but that it should not be automatically privileged. In other words, priorities ought to be established between all the ideals of a democratic society. What, in my opinion, ought to have been more emphasized by Fish is the concept of inalienable rights under which free speech falls. In other words, free speech together with the other rights that are intrinsic to human nature are not to be considered as a mere political trophy granted by the State or earned by a citizen but something with which a human being is born. Interestingly enough inalienable rights are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence but hypocritically not applied to millions of slaves. But that is another issue.    

Undoubtedly these philosophical musings on the limits of free speech will not exhaust all the perplexities issuing from the discussion currently going on after the Paris massacre of 10 cartoonists of a satirical magazine. Surely there will be other points of view, but perhaps they will suggest a less personal ad hominem approach focusing more on the will to truth and less on the will to power. For as the ancient Greeks have well taught us, the former leads to wisdom, the latter only to self-deception and acrimony. They knew only too well what happened when Eris, the goddess of discord, crashed the party of the gods uninvited.


An Exchange of Ideas on Free Speech between Ernesto Paolozzi and Emanuel L. Paparella:

Paparella has introduced a very relevant philosophical question: the relationship between universal principles and the particular concrete situations of the same principles within history. He focus our attention on philosophers such as Vico and Croce who attempted to explicate the universal via the particular while avoiding the privileging the universal and the falling into skepticism or the relativism of values.


Within a political framework these argumentation which may appear abstract at first sight, turn out to be quite concrete. It is indeed a question of uniting the exigency of respecting universal values (equality before the law, free speech, religious liberty) with the exigency of adapting those same ethical and political values to the concrete conditions of a whole people, of a social group, of a religious community. A difficult enterprise indeed. Lately, in fact, this issue has exploded virulently. I refer to the conflict present in Europe, but in America too, between a value which is considered universal in the Western world, that of free speech (and therefore also of political and religious satire) and that upheld in part of the Moslem world, that of absolute and inviolable respect for religious values.

But if we frame the issue thus, it becomes irresolvable. It will generate a clash of civilizations, or a modern war of religions which cannot but lead to a real war with all the damage and the suffering that inevitably accompany wars. That would be a great tragedy. It is not possible, in my opinion, to reply with a unilateral defense of some values. Neither it is possible to put together any value that is not shared, as if it were a value among others within a general philosophical  and moral anarchy. Moral and political relativism simply leads to the victory of the most powerful, of the most arrogant. Within this framework what Paparella proposes philosophically can be of great relevance.

We assume that freedom’s value is absolute; but we know that we mush historicize it, that is to say, we need to place it within the real historical conditions in which we find ourselves. Freedom, understood in this dynamic sense allows us to accept, within the specific case of current events, to respect the religious beliefs without abdicating the value of freedom. In other words, it allows us not to accept the violence to which power has to be applied, but to renounce, where possible, to offending others’ sensibility.

Ultimately even freedom is a religion. One must believe in it, generously and with passion. But it must be a religion which does not close itself in particular precepts, in what goes under the name of religions’ catechisms. Only thus does freedom by defending itself also defends those who think differently and thus legitimizes itself as such. Even the great monotheistic religions, when they are not instrumentalized for political goals, hide at their core a principle of freedom.

Political, philosophical and moral dialogue must be founded on this reciprocal acknowledgment, without renouncing one’s views and without renouncing the dialogue. This, nowadays, can be considered freedom’s gamble.


On Her Own Terms: The Aesthetics of Free Speech,

Tech and the (African) Feminist
A Presentation by Abigail George


“When the Washington Post telephoned me at home on Valentine's Day 1989 to ask my opinion about the Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwah, I felt at once that here was something that completely committed me. It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression. Plus, of course, friendship—though I like to think that my reaction would have been the same if I hadn't known Salman at all. To re-state the premise of the argument again: the theocratic head of a foreign despotism offers money in his own name in order to suborn the murder of a civilian citizen of another country, for the offense of writing a work of fiction. No more root-and-branch challenge to the values of the Enlightenment (on the bicentennial of the fall of the Bastille) or to the First Amendment to the Constitution, could be imagined. President George H.W. Bush, when asked to comment, could only say grudgingly that, as far as he could see, no American interests were involved…”

                                                    Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

“Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

                                                    Napoléon Bonaparte

“When widely followed public figures feel free to say anything, without any fact-checking, it becomes impossible for a democracy to think intelligently about big issues.”
Thomas L. Friedman

“The only security of all is in a free press.”
Thomas Jefferson

“I should say here, because some in Washington like to dream up ways to control the Internet, that we don't need to 'control' free speech, we need to control ourselves.”
Peggy Noonan, Patriotic Grace: What It Is and Why We Need It Now


The idea of free speech does not exist for me. The idea of free speech does not excite me. It makes me feel weary. I do not believe in censorship. What is free speech? Another idea a man came up with or should I say ideal. Ideals are good to have when you are living someone else’s life like having or not having been born with the proverbial silver spoon in your mouth. Let me tell you something about my background. Perhaps then you will understand why I call myself a feminist, why I think of myself as an intellectual first and a philosopher second. My paternal grandmother was a domestic worker. A housekeeper for a wealthy family. My paternal grandfather was an alcoholic before he was saved. He was a veteran. When he came home from the war all that the government of the day thought that he deserved was a bicycle and a coat. Now that it is one of the reasons I am who I am today. The daughter of a writer became a writer. The daughter of a political activist became involved in student politics. I served on the Student Representative Council and the Governing Body at my high school. I did not like politics. It was not my first love. Teenage boys were my first love but anyone who is a politician knows that he is married to his country. He is married to his ideals. A female politician does not spend enough quality time with her children. She is always on a guilt trip about this because she is not only married, separated or divorced but she is invested in the struggle. Technology has changed the female perspective. Freed her the way Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice freed the feminists of her day. The playing field for men and women was clearly not level in the SRC and the Governing Body but from this phase of my life I understood that I was still dominated. I was dominated by older woman who did not want to be my mentors or role models (is it any reason I became a writer because of the chief man in my life who was my father). I was not free. I knew I was not free. I knew I was not liberated. I had to experience life and love if I was to be liberated.  At night I knew to free myself, emancipate myself from this oppression I had to read books with a torch under my bedcovers at night. I knew that I was tolerated at best in those meetings as a teenager.


Did I have a voice? No. So if you want to believe in a world where an Edward Snowden exists and think that we have free speech by all means go ahead. I want to call myself a feminist that is my prerogative. Free speech is not going to change the world. Women and men are going to change the world. Mothers and fathers are going to change the world not social media. Prodigies and savants, muses and your faith is going to change the world. I learnt very early on not to shut up, not to bow down to authority, to be insubordinate. I cared about free speech very early on which is why I started I started to write poetry as a child, why my father explained to me what words like ‘bondage’ and ‘democracy’ and ‘invisible ink’ and a ‘political cell’ meant at an early age (was that free speech or was it just a conversation a father and daughter was having?) Why is free speech always politicized? There are two poles when it comes to free speech. The believers and the non-believers although maybe I should add the atheists and agnostics too. There will always be two poles. The North Pole and the South Pole. Free speech is an illusion. It is a complicated, complex illusion that I do not care for because I have fought too hard, tooth and nail to finally call myself a feminist. I cared about free speech which is why I started to write about vagrants walking in Victoria Park, vaginas and lovemaking as an eleven year old (well, I wrote about everything). I was a child. I would even write about a woman’s sexuality from a child’s point of view with my father’s blessing throughout my mother’s depression. With a love like that is it any reason that I became a writer following in my father’s footsteps. I wrote about affirmative action, racism, rape in my letters to the editor. I wrote about Jurassic Park.  I wrote about street children. I wrote about children locked up in prison alongside adults.

Free speech is a human right. Free speech (what I am trying to say is this) is not a human right. Censorship is there for a reason. The intelligentsia think they can get away with anything. Using the words free speech to make everyone feel welcome in their society which really doesn’t happen in real life. You are not welcome if you do not have grey matter between your ears, that degree, that education. That is why the divide between the insanely rich and the devastatingly poor exists. Free speech did not change anything, will never change anything for the poor. Perhaps mob justice. Perhaps when those who live in the dire straits in South Africa march and protest about poor service but not even. So now I come to honesty. If it was not for free speech I would not be able to write this presentation. Yet already I feel I am the primitive interloper. I already feel I have not done my research or enough research because I am simply out of my depth, I am out of my league. I already feel I am the second sex. I already feel I am not part of the intelligentsia but this is what free speech can do to you. Make you feel a fool, that you are conquering the world, that you are a spiritual guru, a motivational speaker spouting prosaic truths about your adventures and conquests, a modern day L. Ron Hubbard or Dr. Demartini.


Now I will talk about feminism and free speech and technology in the same breath. Technology, feminism and this idea/ideal of free speech, well I think (it is also a belief of mine) that it has given women freedom over their sexuality, over their physical bodies, their identities and their indomitable psyche. Now here I must write more about feminism and technology which I believe has a lot to with how the career woman, the independent woman monitors what she reads, what she educates herself about and what she thinks about free speech. Sex, female sexuality and sensuality has a lot more to do with it (free speech) than you think. What does she think of free speech? If she is moneyed, if she has her own wealth she does not have to have free speech on her mind all the time. If young women are poor they have no identity, no intellect. What are they going to do with the paradigm shifts, the successions of free speech? They are lost to the system, in the system. Is the establishment to blame or is it the intelligentsia? Is it absentee fathers who had no parenting skills to think of, alcoholism, addiction, mental illness, anticipatory abandonment and neglect? I have to talk about the girl child, the promiscuous mulatto (which I have written about before), and the mulatto (which I have written about before but will not go into detail here). I have to talk about the Colored youth because I was once upon a time that Colored youth but was lucky enough not to have an absentee father. I was lucky enough to have a father who had parenting skills. Focus you are thinking. You are probably thinking that I am all over the place. Researching free speech is laudable (it is praiseworthy) but it is one thing. Understanding it is another. In the beginning laying down the foundations of free speech was done by men not women but I believe that free speech was inspired by women because since Adam and Eve there was always a union between the two (what I like to think of and term ‘a team’), a miracle rising. Free speech in modern society is taken for granted or taken away. Without it we would simply be lost nations. What would highly intelligent husbands be without their highly inspiring wives, the fact that they think their progeny are brilliant?

I will always talk about feminism and free speech in the same breath. The way tech wizards talk about social media and networking in the same breath. They co-exist. One cannot exist without the other. So you are probably wondering why I am talking about feminism. Why am I not talking, dedicating, devoting myself to free speech?  As far as I am concerned society does not deserve free speech but is that not a bit like saying that women do not deserve the vote? I do not know. I do not have all the answers or the elegant solutions but what I do know is that the world’s frequency is in dire straits. People are sharks in costume in this world drama fretting, strutting, and swaggering around. They have forgotten Lincoln, Kennedy, Biko, Lumumba, Malcolm X, George Washington, Jean Rhys and Simone de Beauvoir. Is that free speech? Realizing that there are no female philosophers or poets, mathematicians with the standards of Socrates, and Plato. That is not free speech. That is honesty. Where are all the female philosophers, the female poets and playwright who can align themselves with Shakespeare and Marlowe? What happened to the female mathematicians? Honesty like Billy Joel said is such a lonely word. I say people will not, do not want to take responsibility for anything, accountability for anything. So why give humanity free speech. They have not earned it. They abuse it. Yet the powers that be give them the absolute right. Call free speech ‘progress’, ‘perspective’, ‘what is currently trending’, ‘what is the forecast’ as if murder and exploitation was the weather. Free speech is dead. All worship social media. Amen. Hallelujah. This is going to work, will always work. If presidents do their work and are not absolutely corrupt. Cabinets, government officials, journalists, the print media does not rely on social media or social networking. The world wants what it does not need. It desires what it does not need. It desires what will stifle humanity. Kill it dead in the end.  Free speech is what will eventually do us in because humanity is in the habit of believing illusions. What were the founding fathers thinking? Was immortality perhaps on their minds? The legacy of kings and queens? Believe you me that these are just the kindergarten days of free speech. The origins began with Adam, Adam’s rib and Eve. Maybe I just talk like that, think the way I do because my faith means everything to me. It is a frenzied rhapsody in blue. Tragedy speeded up. It is the Buddha on canvas. A mantra while I consciously think of my chakras, of Saviors manifesting in the corners of the globe. Here is an example of free speech. I dream of the day where there is no more news of war that frightens me to death. What does it mean? Isn’t it really just a figment of my imagination, a conscious uncoupling from my subconscious, a nervous breakdown of the extreme from reality, a detachment? That is all that free speech really is. Nothing is as intimate to a woman who is a feminist as free speech is. An intelligent woman. A woman is really different from a girl. She moves differently in the world, winters differently in the world. You will never forget her once you meet her. I grew up in church and it is not for nothing that I am a feminist Christian. You might ask yourself how can a feminist Christian debate free speech when she has been indoctrinated since she was a child to have split personalities, playing different roles as daughter, girl, and intellectual. Faith is a choice. Belief is a choice. Free speech is a choice which is why there are sit-ins, marches and protests but I still do not believe that people, the human race understands completely what free speech is. I don’t. I try to understand what the private vision is behind free speech. Free speech is there for one reason and one reason only. For the people. For the followers. For the disciples. It is 2015 but do women have a voice? Do girl children have a voice? Do boys who have had alcoholics, mentally ill fathers who have walked in the same footsteps as their fathers have a voice? That is why free speech is there. For the people. For the followers. For the disciples. For misanthropes, writers, mostly poets. Think of liberty. It will free you.


‘Networked feminism is a phenomenon that can be described as the online mobilization and coordination of feminists in response to perceived sexist, misogynistic, racist, and other discriminatory acts against minority groups. This phenomenon covers all possible definitions of what feminist movements may entail, as there have been multiple waves of feminist movements and there is no central authority to control what the term "feminism" claims to be. While one may hold a different opinion from another on the definition of "feminism", all those who believe in these movements and ideologies share the same goal of dismantling the current patriarchal social structure, where men hold primary power and higher social privileges above all others. Networked feminism is not spearheaded by one singular women's group. Rather, it is the manifestation of feminists' ability to leverage the internet to make traditionally unrepresented voices and viewpoints heard. Networked feminism occurs when social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr are used as a catalyst in the promotion of feminist equality and in response to sexism. Users of these social media websites promote the advancement of feminism using tools such as viral Facebook groups and hashtags. These tools are used to push gender equality and call attention to those promoting anything otherwise. Online feminist work is becoming a new engine of contemporary feminism. With the possibility of connecting and communicating all around the world through the Internet, no other form of activism in history has brought together and empowered so many people to take action on a singular issue.’

Tech is taking 'the covers off' social issues while feminism is now becoming the perpetual adoration of the female intelligentsia.  Technology has certainly opened our eyes to the plight of women and girls around the world. Consider the impact social media had on galvanizing international outrage after the horrific and deadly gang rape of a young Indian medical student, or the power of Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, an advocate for the right of girls to an education, who was targeted and shot by a gunman, and who has since become an international heroine.

"Technology has definitely taken the covers off a lot of social issues when it comes to women," said panelist Tara Hughes, senior director of technical product management at Turner Broadcasting, CNN's parent company. "I think it's provided a voice for the voiceless, so we wouldn't know some of the things that were going on in countries like India or (in) the Middle East if it wasn't for some of those social networks."

Is feminism the new racism, the dishwater of imagination? Is prejudice still the new education between the haves (knowledgeable boys, guys and men) and the have nots (girls and women), the soft domestic animal shamed if she is not a goddess. Technology is not gender neutral. Domesticity is not gender neutral. Feminism is not gender neutral. Art is not gender neutral. Feminism must confront the danger zones, the assumptions of the lives of women. It is technology that is influencing the intelligentsia of women for the most part today. Daughters doing what they did in a disembodied space, a personal space that is filled with images where men hate women for their emotional maturity and intelligence.

What about the future of feminism, tech, generations of girls to come? Is it always going to be masculine, primed for a man’s brain, a man’s brain cells clicking away? What is fundamental is that women are becoming just as smart as men are if not smarter.

There are women against feminism but there are more women who are in praise of it, who worship and appreciate their physical bodies, their independence. In the end feminism, humanities, the digital divide, there is and will be enough potential for it to develop alongside each other.

‘Networked feminism's impact is somewhat limited because not everyone has access to the internet. According to Samhita Mukhopadhyay, the executive editor of ‘Feministing’, a popular feminist blog, "we tend to forget the women who aren’t online – there is a digital divide – and I think that part of the feminist movement should be focused on reaching out to people face-to-face doing community work, doing international work. A lot of people are online but not everybody, not by a long shot.’

Slacktivism (sometimes slacktivism or slackervism) is a portmanteau of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes "feel-good" measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little physical or practical effect, other than to make the person doing it feel satisfied that they have contributed. Slacktivism can be defined as the act of showing support for a cause but only truly being beneficial to the egos of people participating in this so-called activism. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist. The underlying assumption being promoted by the term is that these low cost efforts substitute for more substantive actions rather than supplementing them, although this assumption has not been borne out by research.

Many websites and news platforms have integrated social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter into their interface, allowing people to easily “like”, “share” or “tweet” about something interesting they saw on the Internet. People can now express concern about social or political issues with nothing more than the click of a mouse, raising the question, what is actually being accomplished by these “likes” when very little thought or effort is required?

Slacktivist activities include signing Internet petitions, joining a community organization without contributing to the organization's efforts, copying and pasting of social network statuses or messages or altering one's personal data or avatar on social network services. Research is beginning to explore the connection between the concept and modern activism/advocacy, as groups are increasingly using social media to facilitate civic engagement and collective action.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS describes the term "slacktivist", saying it "posits that people who support a cause by performing simple measures are not truly engaged or devoted to making a change".

There are millions of feminists out there today. Hundreds of mental sketches, mental sketches about the role that technology plays in the lives of ordinary women, exceptional women, extraordinary women, brilliant women, mothers and daughters all in certain support of political activism whether they vote or not.. Governments may not have found solutions of philosophical consequence, writers’ movements in Nigeria are moving towards the memoir, there might not be inspired peace in the four corners of the globe but girls have options. Girls go on pilgrimages into the guidebook, the ebony and ivory, the psychoanalysis, the psychological framework, the history of the wilderness of Europe and America. Girls have the otherworldly guidance to the kitchen table wisdom of their mothers and grandmothers on their side and that is their guide to the unveiled male brain.

When it comes to the affections of intellectualism, there is a hidden telepathy in creativity, the scarcity of a female mind being suppressed by successful, powerful men, intelligent men who minded the materialist in likeminded women who were their equals, in the synchronicity of the vanity of that savage impulse. For the man subjugates the woman’s movement, thinks his essays are far more superior, that it signals ‘humanity’. Technology is never going to bypass even the African feminist. There will always be advancements in technology, in footprint of climate change. Someday technology may even surpass humanity. The intersection and perspective, the knowledge and networking of technological advancements made in social media will affect feminism in the long run as well but not in the way that you think it will. In the eighties it was debate, in the nineties it was a perspective that no one wanted to own up to although there was feministic parameters, in the new millennia it was another wave of feminism, modern feminists who were more technological savvy than their counterparts in previous decades were.

There is what I call 'evolutionary displacement', a creative outlet for the modern feminist and the African feminist which goes to say that there are integral theories that are a ‘kindergarten’ work in progress of paradigms of indigenous knowledge systems. Intelligence in women is no longer an illusion, no longer abandoned memory work. The intellectual woman is no longer an argument, no longer Darwin’s argument. Her sensations are no longer trivial. Spiritual poverty no longer has an inner voice for the female intellectual. Now that all women are awakened to the fine art of the accumulation of the pessimism of social media, sexual violence is being taken to a new kind of virtual level kind of phase/playing game. There is no kind of Jane Austen society that exists today in the universe. Even less a Dorothy Parker society to a lesser extent. But the feminist is more comfortable in her skin. The Goth is more comfortable in her skin amongst.

It is necessary to look at the violence, the waves in the shallows of this hallucinatory reality, modern society demands that women become more technologically-savvy alongside their male counterparts, Do intelligent women take themselves a seriously as men take themselves? The African feminist’s life is an unexamined life. The onset of the nature of life is symbolism, the consolation prize instrumental in demonstrating the female property is the sensibility of intuition. What is feminism and what in the world does technology have to do with it? Feminism is an abandonment of the vibrations that alters the relations of the biochemistry of childhood into adolescence. Both, by establishing specificity, flatters intelligence, are learning curves, emotional and independent of each other. Both are liberating. Women are gifted since ancient times, since fighting for contraception, the vote, and the encouragement of the suffragette movement. Women are oracles, and at the end of the day a woman’s work is never done.

Self-awareness comes with pain (what does technology have to with that. It is where the introvert and the extrovert, the inhibited intellectual and the exhibitionist meets) but it also comes with futuristic technological advancements to be made. Here is a self-portrait of a machine or robot who we think has no sense of intuition but has a ‘narrative’ or ‘text’ running through it of his own volition that although it cannot think for itself it has science, it is coded, and it has an energy, a personal velocity. It is the creative hand in hand with the advancements in technology who will imagine our future, alongside feminists, female intellectuals and women who are as smart as men, who fought their way to think the way their fathers did or who are smarter than the men they know of, work with or socially interact with or engage with or relate to. It has always been men who has inspired the female intellectual since she was a child and not a woman. Not the mother figure in her life.

The mother figure is a miserable failure to the girl child who wants expression (to express herself), the girl child that wants to be part of a collective but to also be seen as an interloper in modern society. The girl child is fascinated with her older contemporaries. She is always re-enacting scenes from the introduction to her father’s acute sense and sensibility, his culture, his pride, his prejudice becomes part of her psyche, whatever arrogance or anticipatory narcissisms, neuroses that her father portrays it will become part of the girl child’s psychological framework. She writes to liberate herself. She thinks to liberate herself and the miserable failure of a mother does not write, does not think. This is strategic on the part of the girl child. To distance herself from her ‘miserable mother’ who is most probably tired (with a household to run, a husband and children underfoot), sad (because she has no energy, no time for herself), lonely (because she has simply no one to talk to about the things on her plate, she is having to think about the performance about it all when it comes down to it), and depressive (too many things on her mind).

The values of a man has been ingrained in her since childhood, that all book-knowledge is powerful. That was the case with me. What can women share with each other? Education, stories about childbirth, fertility and motherhood. I am not in any way saying that is the case with all women who decide to write as a lifelong career, go into academia, become a feminist (a feminist is ‘being’, it is a kind of humanity, you do not become a feminist, in the end to me it is a small triumph). Aesthetics on the other hand is a panorama, a cordoned off view of explorations, perspectives, small little triumphs, A feminist is a little known landscape to the mother. There is a crossroads when it comes to the world of tech and the world of the feminist. If you are a feminist you are not only making a statement that this is your identity. You are either a feminist or an egoist or both. You have a lack of an ego, it is also a lecture, my hairstyle, my clothes, my dress, my attitude, the films that I watch and who I choose to love you are saying you are feministic and that it is not a phase. How can technology save women, save feminism, save the girl children? Education can save women, save feminism and save the girl child?

The girl child who grows up to become a writer or a feminist or an intellectual projects what her father projected, what the men around her as a child projected whether they were alcoholics or mentally ill or had beautiful, artistic hands and kind eyes even though perhaps she felt abandoned or neglected by an absent father, even though she had a mother who showed her a world of life. I write the way I write because my mother was the one who abandoned and neglected me. She was the miserable failure who was tired, sad, lonely and depressive. Harsh words but then not every one’s life is a Disney fairy tale. The girl child embroiders fantasia, but when it comes to tech another world opens itself up unto her of biblical proportions and she becomes a Moses, Jonah, a Noah, an Elijah, and a Daniel. Science and education can do that to you. Literature and existential phenomenology can do that to you. Make a radical out of you. Decorative imagery can make tech look pretty. Dealing with tech and feminism is easy, retouching critiques. It is not for the boys anymore.

Works Cited

Wallace, Kelly. “Technology is feminism's friend and foe.” CNN.com. CNN International, 7 October 2014. <http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/18/living/technology-empowering-women-identity/index.html. >

Wikipedia. Cyberfeminism <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyberfeminism>

Wikipedia. “Feminist Techoscience.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist technoscience>

Wikipedia. Networked Feminism. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Networked_feminism>

Szymanski, Katie. “At the Intersection of Feminism and Technology”. Huff Post Women. 3 January 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/katie-szymanski/at-the-intersection-of-fe_b_6122954.html >





A Comment by Abigail George from a Feminist Perspective:

I had to go and see the doctor. Had the flu, a cold, laryngitis and as I was sitting there in the waiting room two Muslim women walked in and with them came a young boy with two toys in his hand. One woman was obviously his grandmother and he addressed the other woman as 'Mum, what are you looking at?' Full of the curiosity of a child he spoke to his grandmother mostly. So while I sat their waiting I listened to their conversation. The  grandmother said she liked the squirrel but not the other toy. He must give his toys to another child and she would buy him new toys. Nicer ones than the ones he already had. Well I was already in an emotional state being in at the doctor's surgery is not a nice place to be. It has been a place that I have had to endure since I was a teenager. But I was also in an emotional state and have been ever since I read our collaboration. My father’s biggest admirers and greatest friends have been Muslim. He worked alongside them at the high school he was principal of. I have to admit I did at first look at the pictures and of course everything was taken out of context then already and then I fell back to the old hook of every writer to read what every other writer/artist/sensitive philosopher does and then they go back and read the fine print. What I am really trying to say is that humanity is not all evil but is that like saying that Hitler was not really all evil. Once he had a childhood too. Once he had a childhood home too. A father. A mother. Relationships.

I do not really understand much of what is happening in the world today. The trends that are currently forecasting, reality television, the Kardashian phenomenon, xenophobia, why Steve Biko, Dambudzo Marechera had to live and die the way they did, why Julius Malema was ousted the way he was from the ANC. Okay, there are a lot of things I do not understand.  Poverty, mob justice. Why don't we do what John Lennon did and just eureka 'imagine' 24/7. Embrace our differences. Let us embrace the fact that there are different faiths in the world. Respect that. Consider that those differences make us magnificent, make us individuals, make us more than not lesser than. It is a new year. Let us love and accept the things we cannot change (I am Christian and you are Muslim or you are Baptist or Presbyterian, Hindu or choose not to worship any deity, guru. Perhaps you find yourself in an ashram in India as I am writing this.) and have the wisdom to know the difference. Sound familiar? Perhaps it is because my parents were too over protective that my vision of the true reality of the world around me was shielded, clouded somewhat. I only learned about silver linings much later on. Enough with the pattern of hate. What do all of those negative vibrations cause in the physical, mental, emotional body and the mainstream body of society?

Will our planet ever be ready for love? I tell you it is not out of our hands. We feed each other all these negative images, this negative feedback that we get from television, from our reality, from our innerness, from our exterior world, from social media, from print media, from media period. Humanity is interconnected and one day we will come to this realisation. It does not matter when or how. It has been a long time coming just like the awareness of climate change.

Everything that we fear only serves to make us have a much more limited bird's eye view of the world. Only makes us a little bit more vulnerable. Give me a little respect. I have seen what respect can do to a grown man that lives in poverty in Helenvale. You can change a person's consciousness if you respect him. Honour him and his religion by respecting him and you will renew integrity in his soul. It is not a mystery. We all want to be accepted for who we are, for the principles and the values that we teach our children. It is more than a state of mind and that is why I put my faith and trust God and it has probably more to do with my upbringing than anything else. We are all nurturers, caretakers, warriors, nomads, loners, artists, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons even orphans take on these roles at various stages in their lives. I have seen what respect can do to a small child in an orphanage in South Africa. How a smile can light up the gentle face of a small child. Respect transcends all space and time. Humanity must take a stand for respect. If not now, when then?


'The unexamined
life is not worth living for a human being'

δ νεξέταστος βίος ο βιωτς νθρώπ'
                            - Σωκράτης


Christ: a painting by Nikos Laios

Around the world, people live, laugh and cry meandering home from work, with backs bent over in rice patties in lush green fields, camel trains trekking across the desert, all going about their way living their daily lives within the milieu and timelessness of their cultures.

I then wonder how these different lives, how their different lands and cultures are affected by the ideas of freedom of speech, religion, ethics, morality and capitalism. How these concepts have shaped their lands and civilisations like a potter's hands shapes clay.

Sometimes I ponder these questions as I lean out the window and imagine that under the light of coal- powered stations metal tracks sink into the earth, as millions of city lights flash like camera bulbs, the flashing lights fall deeply on the furrowed land; or the mornings, with the coffee percolating and flowing like thick sheets of lava over the rim as the morning sun filters through the blinds picking up flecks of dust; as beads of sweat trickles down the  worker's face as the jackhammers pound and build the new towers,and on the other side of the world the women laughed and ululate.

Yet this kaleidoscope of humanity, the tapestry of human lives has been soaked in blood of late, bloody acts which have been perpetrated against innocents. The shooting in Sydney, the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, and now the recent shooting in Denmark ironically at a freedom of speech seminar where a Jewish person was killed.

All of these heinous acts were carried out by followers of Islam. They were carried out by people defending the blind dogmas and beliefs of their religion against people and their cultures - and their freedom of speech - whom they consider to have offended their religious sensibilities; where these Islamic terrorists carry out these bloody acts against 'unbelievers' to assuage and appease the injured honour of their God and religion.

To us in the West these acts and their modus operandi come as a shock, in as much as Church and State have long separated in our world, where religion has become a personal matter, and where religious beliefs have metamorphosed from a literalist belief in dogma, to a metaphorical and symbolic belief bringing a spiritual comfort in an introspective personal way. A far cry from the backwards and barbaric submission to a god that cries for blood, revenge, war and enslavement of non-believers.

Then, in relation to these terrorists of Islam we ask ourselves what is their deep-seated motivation? What role religion has in our world today, why it is stirring up such passions and violence and what role religion has thus far played in humanity's rise?

For somehow, these two twin pillars of the human cultural legacy - freedom of speech and  religion - have become intertwined, where today even though society has rested on its laurels thinking that it had it all figured out, the results of violence and conflict are therefore causing people and societies to ask questions on how one should live, how a society should be organised.

At present, we bask in a reflection on the philosophy of freedom of speech, religion and the concept of society - the importance of these ideas  - and how all integrally linked they are. Firstly, the concept of what we know as freedom of speech is a purely western and a European cultural phenomena. To answer the question of what is freedom of speech, how much freedom of speech one should have and how this societal concept interrelates with other societal and cultural structures, we need to travel back to its origins.

The other question that follows freedom of speech and religion vis-a-vis - the contribution towards the running and the organisation of society is - where does money, capitalism and the current financial banking system fit into all this? For we live in a world that is facing an existential crisis, in that thus far throughout the twentieth century, the first world has lived in a blindness and comfort of the peace and prosperity of a society resting not on its people and the result of the cultural and social fruits of their labour, but on a false and shallow consumerist and materialist basis via the accumulation of material possessions; on the buying and accumulation of houses, motor vehicles, televisions, stereos, watches, jewellery, the latest fashions, memberships to exclusive nightclubs, alcohol, drugs, financial speculation and the accumulation of wealth - a vacuous soulless existence.

On the other hand, in the third world, and particularly in the Moslem world, their crisis rests on the miserable failure of Islamic civilisation, where its societal features are not marked by western consumption or culture, but on the economic and social failures that have brought to the fore the fractures within Islamic civilisation: on Suni versus Shia; Islam versus Christianity, Islam versus Hinduism, Islam versus Buddhism, Islam versus Zoroastrianism, Islam versus western culture and consumption; Islam versus just about everyone that does not agree with it.

So as it stands, on the one hand the west has its own internal societal fractures in its existential crisis, and on the other hand the third world and Islam is imploding in the failure of its own civilisation since the geographic shrinking of conquests by Islam that had previously fed its success, and due to this downturn in its civilisation has been marked by a slow and inevitable failure from the end of the seventeenth century until today.

Then on the back of this civilisational failure, millions of Moslems ponder introspectively that if they are the true believers of God - the people of the book - then why has their God and religion failed to bring them glory and material success, and why have the nations and civilisations of unbelief  -  or 'kafirs' If i may use their own word for us - have succeeded both culturally and materially and are the dominant forces in today's world? 

Rather then looking at the mirror to find their answers, rather then undertaking a self-examination of the Islamic civilisation; a civilisation that bans scientific progress and any challenge to its core beliefs as blasphemy and haram (sinful) that is punishable by death. Instead, they look for excuses for their failure outwards, for innocent scapegoats to blame for their own miserable societal failures; and this is the crux and modus operandi that drive their bloody acts; to satiate deep seated personal and societal psychological insecurities.

Therefore, the overarching themes that hover over both the West and the East is the meaning and reason for freedom of speech, religion and the capitalist systems; and the importance and priority of these concepts to the West and to the East, and how the conflict of interests of the west and the East play out on the world stage. These long term historical developments have rolled to the present like a slow-moving orange lava flow over the past three thousand years to become personified in tensions through these present day acts of violence.

We then reflect upon the motivations, and thereby the importance of religion that underlie these events and others; and the current malaise and economic depression that is racking Europe and other parts of the world at the hands of the banking elite, consumerism and materialism.

As I sit here in Sydney on a warm summer evening sipping my red wine as I watch the news from around the world  - flicking between CNN, BBC and Al Jazeera  -  these longterm socio-political and socio-cultural issues dance and wrestle in my mind like some oiled Ancient Greek wrestlers in the Olympia stadium unable to grasp a firm hold of each other, surrounded by the roar of the crowd.

I reflect on what democracy and therefore freedom of speech, religion and the various political structures have given to the world;how culture, our lives and the destiny of humanity have been guided and built, to arrive at our present day, to my own present life here in Sydney, and also back home in Epirus Greece. I start this reflective journey in ancient Athens, where democracy was born on the reforms of the sixth century BC lawgiver Solon, who Instituted various social, political and economic reforms, one of them being new debt relief called the Seisachtheia -  in Greek, σεισάχθεια - the shaking off of debt burdens. Out of these reforms evolved democracy, and democratic Athens where the concept of freedom of speech was born.

The concept of free speech was encapsulated in the Ancient Greek word  'Parrhesia' - 'παρρησία' - which means to speak boldly.

It was an important and crucial component of the democracy of Classical Athens, where citizens could say anything they wanted in their assemblies and courts. Playwrights such as Euripides, Sophocles and Aristophanes could ridicule whomever they wanted in the theatres; often ridiculing politicians, policies and public figures which acted as a release pressure valve for the public to cathartically express their opinions and disaffection.

In the comic playwright Aristophanes's play 'KNIGHTS' the following dialogue lines (line 864-867) by the character the 'Sausage-Seller' was aimed at the Athenian politician Cleon, where the Sausage-Seller states: "You [demagogues] are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good; in the same way it's only in troublous times that you line your pockets."

"περ γρ ο τς γχέλεις θηρώμενοι πέπονθας.
ταν μν λίμνη καταστ, λαμβάνουσιν οδέν·
ν δ νω τε κα κάτω τν βόρβορον κυκσιν,
ροσι· κα σ λαμβάνεις, ν τν πόλιν ταράττς."

But if a citizen held morals or ethics that were contrary to their fellow citizens, or held views that were in opposition to everyone else's, then using an absolute freedom of speech was dangerous as Socrates found out when he was sentenced to death under the charge of corruption of the Athenian youth and introducing new gods.

So the genesis of free speech came with the limits of the ethical and moral considerations that reflected a society and its members; where free speech from the beginning was always balanced by the other equally important cultural pillars of religion, ethics and morals.

Yet Socrates recognised the importance of asking those uncomfortable questions, to be a rebellious gadfly on the rump of the body politic; stinging it out of its malaise, for without asking those awkward and uncomfortable questions, society and humanity would dwell in a muddied stasis with no kinesis, no movement forward towards progress.

Being that humans are self-conscious of their own existence and have an awareness of their own existence in relation to the world around us; we are therefore beings who are built to learn and soak up knowledge and progress forward. That's why to static cultures who do not progress due to the constriction of their strict dogmatic and canonical religious beliefs, these stinging uncomfortable questions and challenges are thereby an existential threat to their own dead cocooned world, leading to answer these uncomfortable questions from the West with violence.

Whereas there was only one Socrates in ancient Athens, in today's western world, we have all become Socrates asking these uncomfortable questions, and how it must gall them so. Millions upon millions of Socrates; who will keep asking our uncomfortable questions and who will not be silenced by bombs or bullets - for like the original Socrates - we are not afraid to become martyrs and drink the hemlock for our right to search for the truth.

Yet with the advent of Christianity and the dark ages, the embers of free speech where extinguished, and where not to appear again until the age of the enlightenment, also called the age of reason. A period this in the seventeenth to the eighteenth centuries marked by great scientific and intellectual progress. A period that emphasised individualism and reason rather than mystical or religious thinking. It was a period of a hive of intellectual dialogue and the free exchange of ideas that lead to the growth of science and scepticism; a period where intellectual figures like John Locke, Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, Sir Isaac Newton, David Hume, Baruch Spinoza and Rene Descartes asked questions and pushed the boundaries of knowledge and wisdom. A period of progress which lead to the scientific revolution, which in turn eventually lead to the industrial revolution in nineteenth century Europe, and then in turn to the Belle Époque from 1871 in France during the period of the third Republic; my favourite period of them all. A period that was marked by peace, happiness, new technologies and progress: a period that marked the beginning of the best artistic and literary talents that the world has ever know.

In this period, Europe again picked up the baton from Ancient Greece and Rome after nearly two Millennia in a spiritual sojourn, and in turn the Renaissance; and then rapidly evolved and left the third world intellectually, culturally and sociologically behind. The question then arises, why was the Islamic world been left so far behind; with a disconnect with the progress of the west and its lack of development. What role did religion play in the west and where did religion cross roads with freedom of speech?


I know one thing, that I know nothing'

ν οδα τι οδν οδα'
            - Σωκράτης


Dante and Beatrice on their way to the Age of Reason by Nikos Laios

Recently,a Saudi cleric by the name of Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibar stated on YouTube, rejecting that the earth revolves around the sun, claiming instead that it is stationary. When questioned by a student whether the Earth was moving or stationary , Sheikh Bandar al-Khaibari responded: “stationary and does not move." He then tried to further explain whilst holding up a cup of water that: “First of all, where are we now? Were going to Sharjah Airport to travel to China by plane, [is that] clear? Focus with me, this is the Earth.” He then explained that that if the plane stopped dead in its tracks in mid-air: “China would be coming towards it in case the Earth rotates in one direction. If the Earth rotates in the opposite direction, the plane would never reach China, because China is also rotating." These statements where ironically made on the birthday of Galileo Galilei, the sixteenth  century father of astronomy who was also then at the time threatened by religious persecution by the Catholic Church for supporting the theory that the Earth and planets revolve around the sun at the centre of the solar system - a theory which is called heliocentric.

The question then needs to be asked regarding our wise and scientific sheik Bandar al-Khaibar, what kind of deluded religious belief blinds a man from the absolute truths of science and the universe around us? Indeed, only several hundred years before, Europe was also subject to a dark social, cultural and a scientific backwardness akin to that afflicting the Islamic world today; whereby greats like Galileo where censured by the church for providing scientific truths that challenged the very core of Christian belief and dogma, and it is this adherence to blind belief and dogma that is afflicting one third of the world today plunging it in a never-ending Dantean circle of chaos and violence.

Though religion is marked by these unattractive characteristics of blind belief and dogma to the exclusion of anything else, one must examine what value has religion brought to human civilisation, whether it has materially affected the daily lives of mankind. From the early primordial soup of our origins, where mankind - young and awkward - like a newly born deer on shinny spindly legs, trembling, sniffing the air for the first time; young and new, walked this new earth in wonder. Gazing at the stars at night whilst lying in his back on the pungent green moist grass, with the tendrils of smoke curling through the gently swaying pine needles, with the aroma of cooking meats and vegetables on the fire, with the sound of cracking rocks, and the rustling footsteps of industry; as he wondered with awe at the panoply of heaven.

The shinning stars blinding like the eyes of spirits or some gods, the fresh crisp night air carrying with it the aromas of his world; the violets and tulips, frangipanis and roses all floating over the aroma of the salty sea down below the clifftops, with the moonlight dancing on the waves with thousands of silver-white dapples of light like the daubs of a paintbrush.The rhyming sigh and gentle whispering roar of the waves crashing and rolling on the rocky point and sandy shores; the waves making love to the sand.

Man surveyed this dream that he was living in; the waking, beautiful, ethereal world that surrounded him and he lived in awe and wonder. Where this piety towards nature grew to a piety and intimation towards something higher, something profound that underlined all this - which in his mind was god.

This 'God particle' that lodged in man's brain grew, and as man evolved from a hunter gather society to an agrarian, settled urbanisation; the concept of God, and therefore the religions which sprang from this belief, fertilised and eventually influenced every facet of human civilisation, to such a profound degree that western man has only recently jettisoned arrogantly and confidently the concept of God. Yet the forces of the spiritual and instinctual have never truly left us, though the forces of rationality was marked by the appearance of Socrates and Euripides, the forces of the instinctual and spiritual are still with us, and were marked by the towering works of Aeschylus and Sophocles. Who counterbalanced the archetypal human forces of the Dionysian and Apollonian - our instinctually and primal unity and our light, reason and wisdom - as in Aeschylus's  trilogy 'The Oresteia'  - ρέστεια; a Greek tragedy about the royal family of Argos and the blood-drenched sequence of murder and revenge; moving from darkness to light, from primitive ritual to civilised institution, from rage to self-control.

Whereas mankind has become aware of the tragedy of his existence, and usually susceptible and sensitive to suffering and tragedy, and the ability to cathartically express these feelings, one way to revitalise our modern world from self-destruction is by forces of tragedy; to express the deepest urges of the human condition. Aeschylus, in the play The Oresteia, states that: "The truth has to be melted out of our stubborn lives by suffering. Nothing speaks the truth, nothing tells us how things really are, nothing forces us to know what we do not want to know except pain. And this is how the gods declare their love."

For as important as the newly discovered forces of rationality are to the future of humanity, just as important are the emotional, instinctual, metaphysical and religious forces of our Dionysian selves; and it is therefore through the forces of the arts that man finds meaning and salvation - through art, sculpture, architecture, music and poetry.

Wherever man is aware of himself and history, life and art are inseparable. It is the creativity of humanity as opposed to the world of nature that distinguishes us from the animals.  Art has served the life of our prehistoric ancestors with the ability to decorate his life with magical, smeared coloured clay symbols on his body and his caves, or the palaeolithic stone carved figurines of female fertility goddess; where it is through this art that man overcomes the tragedy of his existence and gives shape and form to his dreams, and achieves a divine communion. For Friedrich Nietzsche once said: "We have art so that we may not perish from the truth."

Therefore,the forces of both rationality and instinctual /spirituality have played an equally important role in the rise of mankind. Rationality has recently conquered, but does it have to be so? Can we achieve a Grecian balance of the Dionysian and Apollonian forces to balance our world? I look at the glorious artistic achievements that the human soul has accomplished over the last several thousand years that have been inspired by spirituality and logic, and I am filled with awe and hope.

When I imagine the magnificent pyramids of Egypt, or the stepped ziggurats of Mesopotamia, the rough-hew stone structure of Stonehenge in England set in a field of lush green grass catching the movements of the stars under a black velvet sky, or Chinese art with its Daoist  philosophy of the principal of unity in the cosmos and that balance and harmony determines the order of the world through the yin and yang, or the Parthenon in Athens where even through its ruins, one can see the perfect order, symmetry and harmony giving order to the chaos in the world around us, under the blue marbled sky with the scent of figs and olives, and the cicadas clicking on the summer air.

Then my mind travels forward when churches sprung up in Europe like asparagus stalks, and stone mustard seeds, giving form to nature's lines through sacred geometry; these churches flourishing like lilies in a field shimmering in the sun, an expression of faith. Through their pursuit man in turn pushed the limits of knowledge and science to enable their construction. The choir vaulting at the cathedral of St.Peter in France, or the flying buttresses of the nave at the cathedral of Chartres like some beautiful flying swans, the imperial church of the holy wisdom in Constantinople, or the tantalising geometrical designs of the mosques that decorate the east like a dazzling lapis lazuli necklace.

Yet today, we have forgotten this balance and importance of rationality and spirituality, and life in a world ruled by materialism and consumerism, lust and greed, religious fascism and violence; and have lost the gift of grace. It is through the cold steel scalpel of freedom of speech that humanity can examine itself and find the balance, meaning and happiness through spirituality and religion, rationality and freedom of speech; but first we have to remember to become human again, to express that within us that is innate.

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, provides, in Article 19, that:Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Then I reflect on all that we have discussed as I lean out of the window, my mind wanders through the pages of human history searching for wisdom, grace, rationality and spirituality; and my imagination travels back among the stele and crumbling urns and columns wreathed in ivy clinging, that flutters in the wind like crumpled sheets of music, or a carefree summer day when time floated among musical notes like an exclamation mark punctuating the sky, or to the time that when sand collected around the base of the pier as surfers bobbed in the waves like corks.

As I pick at the juicy tender crab, its soft shinning flesh under red crackling skin, and sip my red wine; as I view the neighbours on the opposite balcony - as the musical movements of their bodies elevating their souls to the status of immortals - as the blonde neighbour reclines on the couch reading verses of Camus next to me.All these images of my present blissful domesticity and my travels through the history of man mingle with a faint hope that we can find our centre.

For as important as our religion and spirituality have been, our rationality is just as important and we cannot surrender the purity of our right to the freedom of speech. For we are all an army of Socrates, millions upon millions of Socrates that dare to ask awkward and uncomfortable questions to shift and prod humanity forward toward progress and a better future. We shall not be silenced! But with freedom of speech comes the balancing force of grace, for through the power of grace we can accomplish much.



Sundry Comments by Emanuel L. Paparella on Nikos Laios’ Presentation:

Thank you Nikos for this insightful and thought-provoking presentation. As mentioned in this meeting’s preamble, I particularly liked the dialectical harmonious synthesis you hint at regarding the Dionysian and the Apollonian as integral part of a holistic human nature; something that the ancient Greeks fully perceived and we who live in positivistic times under the aegis of scientific inquiry and the Enlightenment have difficulty grasping. Ernesto too sees that synthesis fully displayed in Vico and Croce’s philosophy of the imagination and the poetical, and writes so in today’s issue. Indeed, such a synthesis is not only possible but necessary for an integral humanity, or we run the risk of dehumanizing ourselves via reductionism and positivism and conceiving our nature as that of a complicated machine without a soul and ethical sense, as Kierkegaard and Levinas, among other modern philosophers, have amply warned us.

There are however some points in your presentation which I find ambiguous and where I have a slightly different take. What better place to express those differing views than a symposium, which by its very nature implies a respect for free speech and the free exchange of ideas? As Aristotle well taught us, virtues are not only theoretical constructs but practical tools of ethical behavior. If not, they become sterile and useless. William James, the pragmatist, for one, used to say that to know what one really believes one needs to pay attention to what they do and not so much to what they say and what they declare as universal principles to be defended tooth and nail. Socrates, as you well point out, certainly gave us a sterling example in that regard. As you suggest, we who love philosophy can do no less; in fact we owe it as an example of a free-wheeling exchange of ideas and of free speech to our Ovi readership or we run the real risk of reducing the whole exercise of a symposium to a mere sterile vanity of vanities.

On extremism and Islamo-phobia, alive and well in the EU as we speak, we need to dispel much confusion which exists in that regard. I remain convinced that the confusion is due less to an alleged war of civilizations and lack of scientific progress, than the positivistic conviction among the Western intelligentia, which believes with Comte that everything regressive begins and ends with religion and everything progressive begins and ends with science (philosophy somehow sandwiched in between as a bridge to progress from one to the other… but still a less desirable phenomenon than science), the non plus ultra. Once one arrives there, to re-admit religion is to go back and regress. So, with that kind of mind-set, beginning with Voltaire, the Enlightenment luminary who coined the disparaging term “gothic” for medieval times, one arrives at conceiving of religion and free speech as mutually exclusive and enemies to each other. Religion is tolerated and reserved for one hour in church on Sunday as a personal comfort (“the opium of the people as Marx put it”) but prohibited from occupying a public space; see the article in Ovi on “the wall of separation” and the rejection of religion from the public square while defending “free speech”: see http://www.ovimagazine.com/art/11943  You are right in calling them pillars of civilization intertwined with each other, but the tragedy consists in conceiving the former as poison to be ejected from the body politic. Certainly a Marx, or a Stalin or a Mao conceived religion thus, and set up as a substitute their own dogmatic deterministic ideology which makes the orthodoxy and dogmatism of official religions look like a picnic in comparison. Chesterton wrote a whole book on the concept of Orthodoxy.

I remain convinced that language, the family as the first social nucleus, and religion (expressed as the burial of the dead) are at the three foundations on which rests any civilization worthy of that name. It is only in the 20th century, the progressive era of the gulags and the lagers, that we have experimented with a religion-less society, as Putin put it at the Winter Olympics, and the results of this progress at any cost mentality are what they are for everyone to see. Aquinas wrote his Summa exactly to prove that faith and reason (or science) need not be mutually exclusive, that in fact any true faith needs to be placed under the light of reason to remain a faith and not a pernicious cult, and that the Bible is not a science book but a poetical symbolical rendition on the very purpose of the universe and life. The pernicious cult parading as religion is what obtains with the fanatical extremist “islamo-fascists” running around nowadays. I call them that on purpose as I would call any KKK member or an Anders Breivik for that matter,  “Christiano-fascists” to emphasize the fact that those people are hiding behind the cover of religion; that in fact they are mere fascists and despicable criminals, followers of a pernicious cult, and that they ought to be brought at the Hague before the criminal court of international justice and charged with crimes against humanity.

Another point where I remain somewhat skeptical is that of the idea of God. I understand how Aristotle arrived logically at such an idea which he calls the First Cause and then Aquinas picks up as proof for the existence of God, but I also know that it is just an idea in Aristotle’s mind and has nothing to do with the Providential Personal God of Abraham, Jacob and Isaac; for indeed to worship one’s ideas makes one a narcissist of sort, not necessarily a religious person. I think something like that happened in that mythological garden called Eden when man decided to be a god rather than a creature.

On cultural debts, of course the West owes much to the Greeks and the Romans and the rationalists of the age of reason but before the Enlightenment there was a Renaissance which literally means rebirth. What was being reborn was Greco-Roman civilization but not as a slavish imitation but in synthesis with another important phenomenon which transformed Europe: Christianity. We cannot forget that even during the Dark Ages (500-800 AD) as Christopher Dawson reminded us in his The Making of Europe, there were monks copying manuscripts in the monasteries’ scriptorium which were then retrieved in the age of Humanism and the Renaissance so that now we can now read Aristotle and Plato. Moreover, to call the whole Middle Ages as dark ages is a misnomer at best as anyone who has been inside a Gothic cathedral can attest to.

We should also be ready to admit that Aristotle and Plato have come down to us in the Renaissance partly due to Islamic Civilization which was undoubtedly superior to the West at that time, and not only in philosophy but in medicine and architecture and engineering too. Credit must given where credit is due. Indeed the Moslems were more successful than the West around the year 1000 AD and that success was largely due to the unifying power of their religion. I get your point of jealousy of the fact that the West has become dominant, but let’s not forget for a minute that it did so via colonialism and imperialism. I have already dealt with the justifications for the Crusades and why they look like a clash of civilizations in an article in Ovi. That is not to say that John Stuart Mills’ concept of free speech and the liberal tradition should not be a universal principle as you rightly advocate; of course it should, but unfortunately there are abuses of free speech and they should be acknowledged rather than insisting of the superiority of our Western culture. These abuses occur every time bona fide religion is slandered and the facts are distorted in the name of modernity and inevitable progress as I have endeavored to show in the presentation above.

So, to return to your premise which is indeed insightful and thought-provoking: freedom of speech and freedom of religion (even when there is in place a so called “wall of separation” between Church and State) are intertwined and need not be exclusive of each other, just as faith and reason need not be such either. To make them a duality is to truncate the integrity of human nature which consists of the empirical and material (the body), the intellectual, or the realm of the intelligible (the mind), and the spiritual (the soul). They are all needed and to be kept in harmony for an integral view of what it means to be human. Without such an integral view we will not be able to find the center of our civilization and the very purpose of our lives. Thanks again Nikos for providing me and the Ovi readership with some rich food for thought and reflexion, and may the dialogue and the search for truth continue.



A Response by Nikos Laios to Emanuel L. Paparella’s comments:

Dear Emanuel, thank your for your incisive and thoughtful comments, though I would make a rebuttal on some of your points regarding my presentation.

Firstly, the West has indeed separated the roles of Church and State where religion has become an introspective and personal matter, but that does mean that religion has a less important role and is just allocated one hour per week. It becomes a personal matter of choice dictated by the free will of the individual. Can religion and spirituality play an increasing role in the west? Yes it can, but at present the west is suffering a midlife crisis and has to regain its centre, and has a heady religious tradition to fall back upon if it so chooses.

In regards to freedom of speech,how much freedom of speech should we have? Should we have less or more? should it be measured out into rations? Here I have faith in human nature whereby we must not compromise on free speech and it should be unfettered regardless, for only by being brave and asking these awkward and uncomfortable questions can humanity progress.

In relation to the violence in the name of religion - one has to call a spade a spade - where the majority of the violence in the name of religion today is mostly by the followers of Islam unfortunately, and this is the current and relevant question. To state that there are 'Christian terrorists' is not completely true in that a beside small pocket in central Africa and Lebanon in the '80's - where they were a reaction to the violence of Islam against them - and besides this, there are no Christian terrorists, for it is a contradiction in terms.

To bring up the crusades is erroneous and irrelevant, but whilst on the matter, the Greek Byzantine world suffered equally as the moslem world did, whereby the crusaders perpetrated just as much violence to their fellow Byzantine Greek  Christian 'allies' as they did to the Moslems; when the beautiful Byzantine capital of Constantinople was sacked by the crusaders in 1204 and some of the booty embarrassingly decorated the public spaces of Venice today.

In regards to the KKK, they where an ugly and racist phenomenon in America during the early and mid to late twentieth century, but they are now a long spent force that have become irrelevant.

You state that the tenth century was a dark age for Europe and that the Arab work saved the works of Plato and Aristotle. It might be true that there was a dark age in Western Europe, but not in the southeast of Europe, for the Greek Byzantine empire continued unabated since antiquity, with its universes and medical centers and hospitals, where it kept intact the knowledge of its Greek ancestors, preserving the world of Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Pythagoras, Euclid, etc.

Indeed, in Córdoba and Baghdad, the Arabic world did progress, but remember that this was a completely court driven phenomena and localised to a few cities; which was enabled by the conquests of formerly Greek cities in Asia-Minor and the Middle East that had been hitherto under Byzantine suzerainty; and whereby the new Moslem conquerors found an already existing Greek population of scholars, scientists, academics, doctors, engineers, architects and libraries - where they had their new Greek subjects translate the corpus of Greek knowledge into Arabic. Therefore the ability of their Greek subjects of the new Moslem caliphate where able to do so in was based in turn on the achievement of the Hellenistic period.

So indeed, the Arab world did assist, but it was mainly the Greek Byzantine world that returned the knowledge of the Ancient Greek ancestors to Western Europe; and this is shown by one of the many Greek Byzantine scholars that visited Western Europe at that time to lecture and share these rare Ancient Greek works and translate them into Latin and Italian, like the Greek Byzantine Neo-Platonic scholar Gemistos Plethon, who lectured in Florence during the Renaissance, and reintroduced the works of Plato to Europe.  Plethon was the author of books such as De Differentiis, a detailed comparison between Plato and Aristotle.

In relation to the success or otherwise of various civilizations throughout human history, civilizations rise and fall - yet in keeping with our competitive mammalian primal urge of survival and competition for resources - not all civilizations have been equally sharing this success, where some have dominated and left a marked legacy on the world, and some have left a blank mark on the world. But the crisis of confidence in the Moslem world since its decline in the seventeenth century is directly contributing to the acts being perpetrated by Islamic terrorists today. This is due to the schism within Islam between Suni and Shia, where this dichotomy is at the basis of much of the violence in the east; for most of it unfortunately is Moslem against Moslem.

Yes, the brief periods of western colonialism of the East post Napoleonic times and especially in the late nineteenth centuries and early twentieth centuries are abhorrent, but these are not the cause of the malaise - and let us not forget that this pales into comparison with the much longer colonial subjugation that Islam perpetrated against Syrian, Armenian and Greek Christian populations which lead to genocides - yet the current disaffection with Islamic youth in the east is that they too would like economic security, happiness, and to enjoy freely the things that the people in the west enjoy, but there is much that is 'haram' (sinful) in the Moslem world, including asking the awkward questions and changing society and progress.

So due to this inability to 'know thyself', these forces of frustration find voice in misguided radical Islam - who do not represent the totality of Islam - and who scapegoat  their frustration through these violent acts of late. For sociologically we must be able to call a spade a spade, and here our unique gift of the freedom of speech will serve us well, in that we can ask these uncomfortable questions: for there are million upon millions of Socrates that are right now asking all kinds of awkward questions, and they will not be silenced.





Intro - P. 1 - P. 2 

2nd Meeting - 3rd Meeting - 4th Meeting - 5th Meeting - 6th Meeting - 7th Meeting - 8th Meeting -

9th Meeting - 10th Meting - 11th Meeting - 12th Meeting - 13th Meeting - 14th Meeting - 15th Meeting -

16th Meeting - 17th Meeting - 18th Meeting - 19th Meeting - 20th Meeting - 21st Meeting -

22nd Meeting -23rd Meeting - 24th Meeting - 25th Meeting - 26th Meeting - 27th Meeting -

28th Meeting -29th Meeting - 30th Meeting - 31st Meeting - 32nd Meeting - 33rd Meeting -

34th Meeting -35th Meeting - 36th Meeting - 37th Meeting - 38th Meeting - 39th Meeting -

40th Meeting -41st Meeting - 42nd Meeting - 43rd Meeting - 44th Meeting - 45th Meeting -

46th Meeting -


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