Front Page Titles (by Subject) Rights and Communication - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4
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Rights and Communication - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1978, vol. 1, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Rights and Communication
“Sprechen und Moral” (“Speaking and Ethics”). Philosophisches Jahrbuch (West Germany), 85 (1978): 87–108.
Plato's Gorgias teaches the naturally right use of speech and language. Plato's doctrine of the rightness of having our errors exposed and corrected in conversation is a primitive version of his doctrine of judging improper acts: it is right and good to be liberated from evil acts and evil speech. The Gorgias distills Plato's entire philosophy: the importance of seeking reality in truth rather than in appearances and opinion.
In the Gorgias, Plato presents these ethical views both logically as well as in the dramatic action and characterization of the conversation-dialogue itself. Naming the dialogue after the rhetorician Gorgias (rather than the more important interlocutor Callicles) suggests that rhetoric or the art of speaking is the main topic. The Gorgias represents dialectic as the ideal form of human language since it is indispensable for righteous personal, political, and social order.
The Gorgias discerns in human speaking the first and most important moral activity. Our speaking together presupposes specific ethical values and expresses our more general desire to avoid evil. Plato's preference for the give-and-take of dialogue over the monologues of sophistic rhetoric implies his judgment of the moral character of speaking. This “moral activity” of speaking implies a relation among people which requires the equal freedom and duty of each participant to speak the truth. We must seriously consider what our partner in conversation says. We must allow disagreement and we should change our mind if necessary.
True conversation involves an act of trust. We attribute to our interlocutors certain intellectual and moral characteristics that alone make possible shared and mutual conversation. Speaking, when engaged in seriously, is the expression of one's soul and values.
Being humble in the face of truth is the most fundamental moral phenomenon. Although speech is for self-expression, it also implies trust for our partner and the hope of improving ourselves by exposure to truth-seeking. The dramatic characterization of Callicles through his speech in the Gorgias (just like his foil, the ideal speaker Socrates) represents an extreme ethical position. Callicles enters the conversation without participating fully. He ignores what Socrates says about moral communication. He is the tyrant of conversation and misuses the natural end of speech.
Autonomy, Privacy, and Authority
Natural law, indeed any reflective personalist morality or political ideology such as individual freedom, requires autonomy. To be free the self seeks to form its own moral consciousness autonomously, rather than passively have its consciousness formed by externally imposed authority. In this framework, the progress of culture and civilization parallels the progressive concern for the privacy of other selves and the determination to cultivate our own autonomy. Increasing autonomy in a society represents a liberation from the authoritarian mentality's taboos against individuation and dissent from the group's rules. By freeing the person to be individuated and differentiated from the group, autonomy tempers the old, automatic, and conventional customs by rational scrutiny and the Socratic examined life.
From the Stoic Epictetus to Abraham Maslow, autonomy as inner personal freedom has been seen to have intimate connections with external freedom in society and politics. The modern world, with its trends toward centralization, bureaucracy, and depersonalization demands that we study more carefully the conflicts between the inner freedom of autonomy and the external servitude of authority, conformity, and obedience. Accordingly, the following summaries focus on the interconnection between the concepts of autonomy, privacy, and authority.
The first two summaries show how essentially pertinent autonomy is to such issues as authoritarian bureaucracy and the debate between voluntarism and government authority. Next, the Black summary, introducing five related studies, emphasizes how vital is autonomous self-responsibility in developing moral self-awareness and the capacity for freedom. A similar theme underlies the studies of buck-passing and the ongoing conflict in the classroom between self-assertive autonomy and authoritarian conformity. With the Margulis summary the focus moves to the close kinship between autonomy and privacy. That privacy and personal autonomy have social and political repercussions is evident throughout each summary.