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PhilosophyPart of Humanities

First Philosophy, Politics and Economics Annual Public Lecture - Lisa Herzog (Groningen) on the 'the marketplace of ideas'

Published: 10 December 2020
Lisa Herzog

The first in our Philosophy, Politics and Economics Annual Public Lectures will take place on Tuesday March 9 at 18:00. Prof. Lisa Herzog (Groningen) will speak on 'What's wrong with the "marketplace of ideas"?'

Abstract: Metaphors from the past can have a long-lasting influence on current political thought and political practice. In this talk, I discuss the example of the "marketplace of ideas", which has been influential in US jurisprudence and continues to be evoked in current contexts, e.g., in debates about the regulation of the internet.

But as a metaphor, it does not quite work – exchanges of ideas are different from exchanges of goods and services. I suggest what might be the most benevolent interpretation of this metaphor: what I call a "leagues" conception, in which "truth and falsehood grapple" (as Milton had put it) in carefully designed and delineated competitions.

Even there, however, it is not plausible that behavior that resembles market action – the individual pursuit of gains – is a promising strategy for truth to win out. But this does not mean that there should be no "freedom of exchange" for ideas, as it were. I argue that instead of thinking that the dissemination of falsehoods would contribute to the finding or strengthening, of truth, as the "marketplace of ideas" metaphor suggests, what is at stake are basic freedoms that need to be protected against censorship.

I conclude by summarizing how this perspective throws a different light on the status of falsehoods that are propagated online or offline, with implications for the legitimacy of different forms of regulation.

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