Intellectual Freedom: Everything is Dangerous

Matthew Sharpe, Cindy Zeiher, Michael Grimshaw, University Of Canterbury
Everything is dangerous..." -Michel Foucault In a series of lectures conducted near the end of his life, Michel Foucault examined the emergence and evolution of the Greek term Parrhesia, roughly "all-telling". In a felicitous mistranslation, the lectures were published in English under the title Fearless Speech. This English rendering of the Greek captures one point of Foucault's emphasis which holds true today, and which I want to take as my theme in what follows. Frank speaking and the
more » ... king and the intellectual freedom it supposes is always a complex, perilous, and contested reality. More a privilege than a right, sometimes an onerous obligation, its practice periodically requires courage in the face of a host of forces acting and speaking against it-if not the kinds of lethal persecution visited on figures like Socrates or Giordano Bruno, or even the censorship and book burnings of more spectacular times, then the subtler forms of social ostracism, economic disenfranchisement, psychological harm and professional marginalisation. Nothing eternal or transcendent guarantees the survival of intellectual freedom in its different forms and dimensions: neither the institutions built to enshrine it; nor the methodologies of inquiry on which its meaningful practice rests; nor the individuals and communities who are its votaries. Its enemies are legion: inherited prejudices, immanent and transcendent; the invariant need of scholars to belong and to conform; the material necessities that still prevent
doi:10.26021/263 fatcat:hb6zxqfjr5dcbid67gt3ig6e2e