In Response to: Limits to Free Speech

Published online Oct. 23, 2017

Marie Basile McDaniel ’01’s letter presents an interesting, self-referential logical paradox. Her proposition one is: “A world where people are swayed by logical argument ... We don’t live in that world.” What does that mean? American higher education has totally failed to produce an educated populace. OK; for sake of argument, let’s grant that. On to her proposition two: “A college like Princeton can and should [place unilateral limits on free speech].” Wait a minute: The same mandarins from the highest echelon of the (totally failed) education system should be rewarded for (total) failure by taking the keys to the First Amendment? This is an argument that only someone who does not understand how to evaluate a logical argument could accept. Weirdly self-referential.

The First Amendment is a harsh mistress. It protects even speech we might find distasteful or fallacious. I have enough faith in Princetonians, past, present, and future, to believe we can be exposed to raw, unfiltered discourse and make up our minds using sound reasoning. No filtering by mandarins required.

Andrew Wilson ’72
Portland, Ore.