Welcome to Unsafe Space.
We are committed to creating a culture that:
- fully respects the freedom of speech;
- viscerally understands the distinction between the initiation of speech and the initiation of force; and
- upholds reason as the only valid tool of cognition, rejecting arguments based on feelings, faith, or force.
Readers interested in learning why we’ve made it our mission to create such a culture will find an overview of the philosophy behind Unsafe Space below.
Reality is real, which means that contradictions do not exist in reality, which means there is such a thing as objective truth. At any given time, we may not know what is true about a given event or item, and we may each see different perspectives and draw different conclusions about what is true. Nevertheless, this fact that does not mean that we each “know” different “truths” about the world. When we disagree, all it means is that some of us—or maybe even all of us—are wrong. Every amount of human progress has been based on this fundamental notion. The screen on which you are reading these words would not function otherwise. And yet, in Universities today, students are taught that truth is a social construct and reality is subjective. If that’s what you’ve been taught, you are being lied to and manipulated. Your ability to think is being neutered. Resist it. And ask yourself why, and who it is that might be benefiting from the mutilation of millions of minds like yours every year.
Commitment to truth is a commitment to the process of reason
Humans aren’t omniscient, which means we don’t automatically know what’s true and what’s not true, which means that we will make mistakes and be wrong sometimes. To account for this, we need a process of thinking that catches mistakes, either mistakes about how we link concepts together in our minds (internal contradictions), or mistakes about how our concepts about the world relate to the evidence available (contradictions with reality). Fortunately, we have discovered such a process. It’s called reason. Reason* is a process that uses evidence and logic to draw conclusions about the world, without regard for what we feel about those conclusions, or what we wish those conclusions were, or what someone else says those conclusions are or should be. In science, we have articulated rules for ensuring that our process of drawing conclusions is based on reason, and we call those rules the Scientific Method. Similarly, we must use reason when contemplating non-scientific subjects, since reason is the only valid method we have for catching our mistakes.
Use your own judgment
As non-omniscient beings, we have no obligation (moral or otherwise) to be right all the time. However, if we expect other people to take our ideas, arguments, and conclusions seriously, we should expect to be judged based on how committed we are to using a process of reason to draw conclusions. There are at least two reasons for this. First, if we are not committed to ferreting out mistakes in our own judgment, then we are openly admitting we don’t care about whether our conclusions are true or not, which means we don’t take our own conclusions very seriously. If that’s the case, then why should anyone else take our conclusions seriously? Second, without an objective method for processing information, communication itself is crippled. If my thought process is simply based on my feelings or unconscious desires, how can I reliably communicate that thought process to you in a way that allows you to replicate or verify the conclusion? “Mallory is a serial killer,” I might say to you. When you ask why I think that, I might respond, “Well, I feel it must be true!” But how do you know what I feel? And how are my feelings a reflection of objective fact? Would it be just for you to go punish Mallory based on this, or even to repeat this accusation to other people? Without using reason, I’ve really only communicated one thing to you: my feelings. I haven’t actually told you anything about reality other than the state of my own personal emotions. For you to punish or prosecute Mallory justly, I would need to provide reasons and evidence for my conclusion so that you can use your own independent judgment to reach the same conclusion. This point is crucial, because although assertions can be arbitrary, conclusions derived from a thought process based on reason are not. Given the exact same information, two different minds can use reason to reach the same conclusion. That’s how scientists transmit information to one another, not through shouting assertions or slurs at each other. And that’s how the rest of us should communicate as well. We should judge each other’s ideas and conclusions based on the thought processes used to reach those conclusions. In other words, if someone is using reason and evidence, they’re probably worth listening to. If they’re not—if they’re just name-calling or shaking their fists in rage, or throwing temper tantrums—then they ought to be ignored, or avoided altogether.
Commit to the process, not the conclusion
We don’t all have the same information, and we all make mistakes in processing that information even when we’re trying to use reason. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if someone is committed to reason by looking only at his argument and conclusion. He might be cherry-picking only the information that supports his argument, but if you don’t know that, then his argument may appear to be reasonable. One way to detect whether someone is committed to reason is to observe how he reacts to facts that challenge his conclusion. A reasonable person will welcome such facts, and may take a moment to attempt to integrate them into his thinking. He may offer arguments about why the facts are not relevant, or he may incorporate the new facts and modify his conclusion as a result. This is a good indication that he’s married to the process of using reason and not married to his conclusion. On the other hand, if a challenging fact causes an emotional reaction, such as outrage, deflection, or threats, then you can be assured that he’s committed to the conclusion, not to the process of thinking rationally. Avoid people who are committed to their conclusions.
Freedom of speech is a necessity
To be able to think, we need to be able to speak our minds, right or wrong. Since none of us are omniscient and perfectly rational computers, each of us might bring different ideas, evidence, or perspectives related to an argument. Closing in on a truthful conclusion often requires testing that conclusion and the arguments behind it by talking about it with others, either publicly or privately. Through the process of sharing thoughts and conclusions with each other, factual errors, missing information, and mistakes in judgment can be exposed and the thought process and conclusion can be updated to make it more consistent with reality (i.e. to bring it closer to the truth). In order to progress, we need to have the freedom to speak to each other about anything and everything. Not only is freedom of speech a moral requirement for any society, it is also a practical necessity. A society that prohibits public discussion of uncomfortable ideas, or even blatantly false and evil ideas, has no chance of correcting mistakes and ensuring that the best ideas flourish and bad ideas die. In a society that does not permit, for example, genocidal zealots to spew their rhetoric, those zealots may go underground and flourish in “anti-establishment” cults. Worse yet—much worse, in fact—over time, average citizens forget (or perhaps never learn) how to argue against those bad ideas because they’ve never been exposed to them. Slowly, the intellectual agility of society decays, and when bad ideas inevitably resurface decades later they take root in the weak, susceptible brains of a population that no longer knows how to detect glaring mistakes in bad arguments. To maintain a society capable of recognizing and rejecting bad ideas, you must expose people to all ideas—bad and good alike.
The non-aggression principle
Humans have the unique capacity to use reason and to understand universal abstract concepts, such as the concept that it is wrong to steal another kid’s lunch money on the playground. But we don’t exist as independent islands isolated from one another. Humans are social animals, and we all benefit from living together in a society in which we can each specialize in particular productive tasks and voluntarily trade the output of that production with one another. Some of us can specialize in brain surgery. Others can specialize in making special effects for movies, or providing therapy to trauma victims, or making donuts, or singing, or accounting, or anything else that other people value enough to pay for. And together, we’re all much better off than if each of us had to perform our own surgery, grow our own food, manufacture our own clothing, computers, and houses, and write our own novels for entertainment. But to live in an ethical, peaceful society with each other, we need to adopt rules for ethical behavior—rules that are simple, that can be applied universally and objectively to all of us in all situations, and that can be easily understood and taught to the dimmest among us—even to children. Leaving out the philosophical arguments for the time being, the most fundamental of these ethical principles is the principle of non-aggression, which asserts that the initiation of the use of force is wrong. In child’s terms, this means: no taking things that don’t belong to you, no hitting someone else, and no breaking promises. Of course, for adults the application of the non-aggression principle can become slightly more complex, but only slightly. For instance, if someone else violates the non-aggression principle in dealing with you, then you are no longer ethically obligated to observe it in dealing with him. The classic example here is physical self-defense: if some guy pulls out a gun and starts shooting at you, it’s okay to shoot back. But the essence of the non-aggression principle is simple, intuitive, and vital to our peaceful coexistence. Unfortunately, no society on the planet has yet adopted it. No matter where you live, men with guns compel you to obey a set of rules through the initiation of the use of force: to hand over your lunch money or go to jail (taxes), to shut up (hate speech laws), to join the military (compulsory service), and even to ask for permission before refinishing your garage or cutting down that tree on your own property (permitting). Hopefully someday humans will learn to abandon both the tyranny of dictators, as well as the tyranny of the mob, and live together in peaceful, voluntary cooperation. That will be a glorious day. Until then, the battle rages on.
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* This is not a rigorous philosophical definition, but a laymen’s description for readability’s sake.