Tuesday, 21 October 2014

On Being Offended



Consider these 4 statements, and which ones are good positions to hold:

1) Everyone has a right to be offended

2) Everyone has a right not to be offended

3) No one has a right to be offended

4) No one has a right not to be offended

I think statement 4 is a strong 'yes' - 'no one has a right not to be offended', because there is no right that protects you from hearing something that offends you. Things are bound to crop up that will offend, because the honest pursuit of facts and truths makes that inevitable.

Given the foregoing, the statement 'everyone has a right to be offended' (statement 1) has concomitance with statement 4 'no one has a right not to be offended' - as both involve the environment of free expression, frankness, and probability of being challenged or affronted.

This leaves statements 2 and 3. Some people advocate the principles of statement 2 - 'everyone has a right not to be offended' - but as a viewpoint I think it is manifestly unhelpful, as such a right would be to insist on being quarantined from any contra-views that might affront you. Similarly I can't even envisage a condition under which 'some people have a right not to be offended' is ever going to be useful to anyone. As for statement 3 'no one has a right to be offended' - that is also one to reject if we agree that free expression, frankness, and being challenged are qualities bound up in our having a right to be offended and no right not to be offended.



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