A Cartesian Defence of the Marketplace of Ideas

I change my mind, therefore the ‘market place’ exists.

René Descartes

Last week I asserted that the ‘marketplace of ideas’, a primary justification for the concept of freedom of expression, probably doesn’t exist. I ended my post with a promise to present some arguments in favour of the so-called market place, and how the concept could be rehabilitated.

The first such argument begins with a comment I made at the end of my guest appearance on the Kraken podcast in February. Winding up, I made the point that “changing your mind can be euphoric”.

What the reveals, of course, is that I have changed my mind in the past. This entire blog is testimony to how a person might iterate and refine their ideas and politics over a period of time. I can think of many examples where I have come to believe something different to my prior assumptions. And in a few cases, I have made a 180 degree turn in my opinions.

I know that this is true for me. Even if cognitive psychology casts doubt on the idea that human beings make rational, evidence-based decisions.

This means I can posit a Cartesian Defence of the Marketplace of Ideas—

Just as the philosopher René Descartes wrote ‘cogito, ergo sum’ (‘I think, therefore I am’), I can say ‘I change my mind, therefore the marketplace exists’. Retexam, ergo non est in foro.1

Of course, this tells us nothing about how the ‘market’ works i.e. how we argue, debate, and persuade. But it is nevertheless an essential bulwark against the nihilism of my previous post.

More thoughts soon.

1. I was never taught Latin so the text above is what the blasphemous Google Translate suggests. I would be grateful to anyone with actual knowledge of latin who was able to correct it.

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