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What can we learn from…? Oriel College, Oxford, May 2023
Wednesday 3 May 2023 @ 7:00 pm
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM…? John Milton/Liberty and John Locke/Toleration
Speakers: Andrew Doyle and Dr Tiffany Jenkins
The rise of cancel culture has made many nervous about free expression and open debate, even though academic freedom is a core value – and legal duty of universities. Many students – and even academics – report they self-censor; student societies often encounter problems in terms of inviting diverse speakers.
However, if universities are to fulfil their purpose as spaces in which to freely explore ideas and develop knowledge, then nothing should be beyond question or outwith the scope of debate. Today, while values of tolerance and liberty are rhetorically espoused, increasingly it is often argued that free expression has its limits.
One way to understand better the predicaments around freedom today is to turn to important figures of the past and to explore their thinking and how it might help us now. ‘What can we learn from…?’ events take as a starting point important thinkers and cultural figures from history. After short, accessible talks, there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.
Wednesday 3 May, 7.00pm-9.00pm
Historically liberty and toleration have been staples of liberal society. Join us to explore the historic roots and contemporary realities of these important ideals.
1: Milton and Liberty
Andrew Doyle, broadcaster; author, The New Puritans
‘Give me liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience’, declared the poet John Milton in Areopagitica. Often associated with seventeenth-century non-conformist Puritans, Milton rejected licensing of printed texts and rebuffed the notion that prohibitions, bans or force could create virtuous men. Today, amidst the rise of a new puritanism, being offensive can be deemed a crime, demands for ‘social justice’ brook no dissent and uttering uncomfortable truths can lead to public shaming. From the ages of the Puritans, old and new, what can we learn about the case for freedom of belief and expression?
2: John Locke and Toleration
Dr Tiffany Jenkins, writer and broadcaster
It was only in the seventeenth century that Western society started to seriously consider the philosophical foundations of toleration of competing religions and beliefs. Today, values of tolerance and respect are regularly upheld. But some argue that tolerating free expression has its limits and society should not be placed at risk of intolerant ideas or even overly judgemental views. Should we tolerate free expression, or retain a right to be intolerant of intolerance?
Harris Lecture Theatre
Oriel Square, Oxford, OX1 4EW
See Google Maps for location.
presenter, Free Speech Nation, GB News; author, The New Puritans: how the religion of social justice captured the Western world
Andrew Doyle is a writer, comedian, and a presenter on GB News. He is the author of Free Speech and Why It Matters (2021) and The New Puritans: how the religion of social justice captured the Western world (2022). He is the creator of the satirical character Titania McGrath, who has published two books – Woke: a guide to social justice (2019) and My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism (2020). He began presenting his show Free Speech Nation on GB News in June 2021. Before then he was a columnist for spiked, a panellist on the BBC’s Moral Maze and regularly reviewed the papers on Sky News.
DR TIFFANY JENKINS
writer and broadcaster; author, Strangers and Intimates: the rise and fall of private life
Tiffany Jenkins is a writer, author and broadcaster. Her last book, Keeping Their Marbles: How Treasures of the Past Ended Up in Museums and Why They Should Stay There, was published in 2016 to critical acclaim. Her next book, Strangers and Intimates: the rise and fall of private life, will be published in 2023 by Picador. Tiffany is an honorary fellow Art History at the University of Edinburgh, and is host of the podcast Behind the Scenes at the Museum, in which she talks to key figures about the big ideas rocking the cultural world, charting the trends and dissecting the controversies. She has written and presented several programmes for BBC Radio 4, including the series A Narrative History of Secrecy.
ALASTAIR DONALD, convenor, Living Freedom
DR MARIE KAWTHAR DAOUDA, Oriel College, University of Oxford
DR ROGER P L TEICHMANN, St Hilda’s College
DR ALBERTO GIUBILINI, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics