October 3rd, 2016 7:00 PM
Few topics on the political left arouse more passion and trigger more discord than free speech. One tradition, tracing back to the 1930s, says, “No free speech for fascists.” Today, it would also silence racists, anti-Semites and Islamophobes, misogynists, lookists, and homophobes. A second tradition traces back to Karl Marx’s credo, De omnibus dubitandum (To doubt everything). It opposes any silencing of opinion on the grounds that, on the one hand, you can never be certain that you possess truth and, on the other hand, the only way to reach truth is by a “standing invitation to the world” to prove you wrong. The last quoted phrase comes from John Stuart Mill’s classic and unrivaled exposition, On Liberty. This 8-week class will be devoted to Mill’s essay. It will not be a lecture class but, instead, will be based on a close, interactive reading and analysis of salient passages in Mill’s text, as it simultaneously engages current controversies (including at Brooklyn Commons). The instructor, Norman G. Finkelstein, himself got embroiled in a free speech tenure case a decade ago. This will be the first class he has taught in the US since losing his tenure battle. It promises to be a provocative and inspiring occasion, where the heat it generates will, hopefully, be surpassed by the light it sheds.
We are offering this course at no charge so that everyone who wants to can attend.