More Fish

It’s funny about that article of Stanley Fish’s, because I don’t always disagree with him on the subject. I agree with much of what he says in the article ‘There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech’. This for instance –

In saying this, I would not be heard as arguing either for or against regulation and speech codes as a matter of general principle. Instead my argument turns away from general principle to the pragmatic (anti)principle of considering each situation as it emerges. The question of whether or not to regulate will always be a local one, and we cannot rely on abstractions that are either empty of content or filled with the content of some partisan agenda to generate a ‘principled’ answer. Instead we must consider in every case what is at stake and what are the risks and gains of alternative courses of action. In the course of this consideration many things will be of help, but among them will not be phrases like ‘freedom of speech’ or ‘the right of individual expression,’ because, as they are used now, these phrases tend to obscure rather than clarify our dilemmas. Once they are deprived of their talismanic force, once it is no longer strategically effective simply to invoke them in the act of walking away from a problem, the conversation could continue in directions that are now blocked by a First Amendment absolutism…

I like that, it’s pretty much what I keep saying when people ask me indignantly what I mean by approving of Irving’s imprisonment when I haven’t done any such thing, I’ve only asked some questions. I’m trying to discuss the subject rather than just saying ‘freespeech’ and walking away. That’s not interesting, and it doesn’t tell us anything, and it ignores the problems, so I don’t see the point. But the NY Times article is another matter. Maybe it’s just that Fish writes in a different voice for the Times compared to the one for the Boston Review.

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