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Courting the AbyssFree Speech and the Liberal Tradition$
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John Durham Peters

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780226662749

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226662756.001.0001

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Conclusion: Responsibility to Things That Are Not

Conclusion: Responsibility to Things That Are Not

(p.284) Conclusion: Responsibility to Things That Are Not
Courting the Abyss
University of Chicago Press

This chapter discusses three challenges to the free expression theory that led to the threefold clash of intellectual and moral options. First, the program of civic self-discipline and sublimation derived from Greco-Roman norms and practiced by English-speaking gentlemen from Locke to Smith to Mill to Holmes is largely in wreckage. Second, postmodernism heralds the breaking of old dams of social and cultural segregation. Third, the credo that anything is permitted because everything in the end advances the public good looks dubious, and the theodicy that pain always bears fruit seems indecent. Modern scientific rationality requires a self capable of impartiality and abstraction. Postmodern cultural relativism stems from the overwhelming blurring of genres and the viral spread of images. Moral absolutism or “fundamentalism” is sick and tired of a patient or solicitous approach to wickedness and crime.

Keywords:   free expression theory, fundamentalism, self-discipline, Greco-Roman norms, postmodernism

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