Thursday, December 21, 2006

what is your dangerous idea?

Daniel Gilbert is the author of "Stumbling on Happiness", which Tyler Cowen recommends as book number two of the year. I love his answer to the question, "what is your dangerous idea?":
The idea that ideas can be dangerous

Dangerous does not mean exciting or bold. It means likely to cause great harm. The most dangerous idea is the only dangerous idea: The idea that ideas can be dangerous.

We live in a world in which people are beheaded, imprisoned, demoted, and censured simply because they have opened their mouths, flapped their lips, and vibrated some air. Yes, those vibrations can make us feel sad or stupid or alienated. Tough shit. That's the price of admission to the marketplace of ideas. Hateful, blasphemous, prejudiced, vulgar, rude, or ignorant remarks are the music of a free society, and the relentless patter of idiots is how we know we're in one. When all the words in our public conversation are fair, good, and true, it's time to make a run for the fence.
This instantly elevates him to hero status, now I really wanna read the book (hint hint).

I doubt Phil will like the quote as much as I do.

Lots of other clever people were asked the same question, go check out their answers.

2 comments:

GT said...

Nice quote.

Grammar/spelling tip: the word for more than one hero is heroes. The apostrophe in hero's indicates possession.

(I won't be offended if you remove these tips from the comments)

Tracy Leigh said...

Not on the topic of free speech, but on "dangerous ideas"... I was really pleased to see Irene Pepperberg's dangerous idea: "The differences between humans and nonhumans are quantitative, not qualitative".

Why is it dangerous? Because if true, as she believes, then we seriously have to rethink and change the way we treat animals, i.t.o. of animal experimentation, food and other forms exploitation. We will even have to start thinking about how habitat destruction and pollution is harming animals.

This will call for some major shits in the way we live our lives and the things we take for granted.