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Culture / Epistemology / Philosophy

Freedom of Expression

I have been discussing various freedoms. I have already discussed the freedom of speech and the freedom of association. I had mentioned creativity in friendship and speech. It is this freedom that I will now describe. Freedom of expression is the freedom to produce, permit, encourage and participate in creative activities.

Remember that freedom always aims at some good. It seems that creative activities are good. They include popular entertainment, novels and stories, TV shows, movies, music, dramas and plays as well as more “refined” activities. Those might include opera, art and sculpture. Virtually everyone agrees that at least some of these activities are good. So the problem is showing that creativity in general is good. Some believe that certain activities are obscene – such as nude statues, pornographic movies or offensive religious ‘art’. Without taking a stance on whether or not such activities are obscene, I think I can show that obscene things are never creative. Creative things are never contrary to the truth in any way, while obscene things always are in some way or other. Creative things point out some truth about the world. Naturally, they do not do so directly. Stories point out facts of human nature, art points to the same, and drama suggests truths of human character. If a story, art or drama suggests some falsehood about human nature – it is poorer because of the falsehood. The falsehood itself is not a part of the creative activity. It is contrary to it. Obscenity takes that very falsehood and promotes it. Therefore, opponents of obscenity always point to the falseness of what they believe to be obscene. If pornography is obscene then it promotes a false view of women. If offensive religious ‘art’ is obscene then it promotes a false view of religious truths. It is the same way for all obscene things. The opponents – who claim that such things are not objectively obscene – claim otherwise. Pornography does not demean women, they claim, unless you already hold such a view. So both sides agree that obscenity promotes falsehoods about the world – but disagree about whether there are any such.

Since creative activities are always good, the freedom of expression secures creativity for all. Naturally, this extends to reading, watching and attending creative activities. It also extends to promoting, advertising and informing about such activities. It does not include the forced attendance of such activities – merely the freedom to attend, look, make and participate.

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