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. When protesters at Berkeley prevented a rightwing provocateur from speaking in February of this year, President Trump threatened to cut federal funding of the university. 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 10-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. The instructor, Norman G. Finkelstein, himself got embroiled in a high-profile free speech case exactly a decade ago when he was denied tenure in June 2007. The course promises to be a provocative and inspiring occasion, where the heat it generates will, hopefully, be surpassed by the light it sheds.
Students in the course will receive a copy of the text. Registration is limited to 15 students.
Class will meet at the Central Library on the following Mondays from 7-8:30pm:
Norman Finkelstein received his doctorate in political theory in 1988 from the Princeton University Politics Department. He taught for two decades in the CUNY system, NYU and DePaul University (in Chicago). He has lectured on a broad range of subjects, and has written ten books that have been translated into more than 50 foreign editions. Finkelstein’s main fields of research and teaching are political theory, international law, and the Israel-Palestine conflict.