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What's Willmoore Kendall's opposition to Mill's view of freedom of expression?

In "the open society and its fallacies," Willmoore Kendall criticizes Mill's view on freedom of expression. What are his criticisms?

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Kendall critiques Mill’s ideology of the absolute freedom of “professing and discussing” on two primary grounds. In the first place, he argues that certain restrictions on speech are the aegis that a society can erect to prevent the manifestation of overt, violent political acts. Lifting these restrictions has the ironic consequence of actually limiting liberty and the rule of law in a society that practices the kind of absolute free speech that Mill encourages. If Communists (a term Kendall himself uses) or anarchists were to be given an equal measure of latitude in the freedom to express their ideologies, and this expression encouraged others to join their ranks, the possibility would emerge that they could ultimately overthrow the fundamental governing structure of society and lead it into chaos. However, for Mill, this is (again, according to Kendall’s reasoning) actually preferable, because their completely untrammeled ability to express themselves is a sign of a completely free society.

In the second place, Kendall argues that a society in which there is no commonly understood and universally applied restriction on the proliferation of certain ideas eliminates the possibility of any form of social cohesion or common sensibility. A society in which even the most marginal religious convictions or political ideologies are given as much credence as the most commonly accepted is one where confusion and disequilibrium dominate. He says,

To put it otherwise, when we elevate freedom of thought and speech to the position of society’s highest good, it ceases to be merely freedom of thought and speech, and becomes—with respect to a great many important matters—the society’s ultimate standard of order.

The crisis that emerges, Kendall maintains, is that this complete openness of thought and speech eliminates any and every expression of a general public truth. In this society, there is no orthodoxy and there are no preferred doctrines—only the fledgling ephemera that characterizes the unformed and multitudinous opinions of the masses, quacks, and extremists. Ultimately, Kendall concludes that we must “adjourn objections to open society doctrines on the ground that they are rooted in demonstrably evil teachings.” The only possible end result of such an open society, he concludes, is revolution, which would undermine the very political infrastructure that permits a free-speech society in the first place.

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This question refers to "The 'Open Society' and its Fallacies," an essay by Willmoore Kendall that appeared in The American Political Science Review in 1960. Kendall takes issue with John Stuart Mill's contention in On Liberty that "there ought to be the fullest liberty of professing and discussing, as a matter of ethical conviction, any doctrine, however immoral it may be considered." Kendall characterizes Mill's position as that of an "open society," an aspiration typically associated with classical liberalism, where a society would be a sort of "free market" of ideas. Kendall criticizes this argument on several grounds. For one thing, he regards it as naive inasmuch as it assumes the goal of a society is, or should be, the pursuit of truth. He argues that Mill does not seem to recognize that the expression of some ideas is actually harmful to some societies. He believes that a society that gives equal respect to all ideas will eventually descend into chaos and anarchy, because it will be deprived of a central idea that its people can agree upon: a foundation for the kind of debates Mill seems to value. Unlimited debate not founded on common premises and agreed-upon norms, he argues, will descend into "deafening noise and demoralized confusion." Finally, he is concerned, fundamentally, that moving toward an open society will ironically result in the marginalization of people who disagree with the premise of an open society. This, he claims, is a fundamental paradox, one that Mill has not resolved. Ultimately, Kendall thinks that a society needs things it can agree upon at least as much as it needs the ability to freely debate unpopular ideas. This is what might be called a "classical conservative" position, one that emphasizes the organic connections that, thinkers like Kendall argue, bind a society together.

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Willmoore Kendall expressed an ideology that actually is closer to fascist ideology than to a mainstream conservative ideology. Modern conservative ideologies tend to at least claim support of a society in which free speech is a critical component. However, Kendall, in accordance with many fascist thinkers, appeals to public orthodoxy and tradition as inherently correct, and he asserts that public challenges to public orthodoxy should be resisted. Kendall asserts that the mere existence of public orthodoxy is proof of its correctness. Mill's view on society challenges this assertion and encourages people to debate, challenge tradition, and discuss new ways of thinking and engaging with the world. Kendall was a staunch traditionalist, with overlaps into conservative traditionalism. However, his detestation of open debate and challenges to tradition much more mirrors fascism. In "The 'Open Society' and its Fallacies," one of Kendall's main arguments against Mill's view of society is rooted not in Mill's views but in pointing out the non-traditionalism of Mill's views. Kendall claimed that Mill's views on free speech and an open society could not be found in historical philosophy, which he believed was proof that Mill's views were incorrect. Kendall believed that public orthodoxy exists because it is correct, and any challenge to traditionalism is a challenge to matters that are simply settled.

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Willmore Kendall was expressing a conservative point of view against Mill's more liberal opinion.  To Kendall, Mill's vision of an open society with complete freedom of expression was one that was explicitly at war with religion, philosophy, and traditional society.

Kendall believed that Mill's moral relativism ignored the experience that societies have.  He argues that societies have learned what it is that they want -- what their basic beliefs and morals are.  He says that societies want to and should protect these beliefs and morals from attacks.

So I would say Kendall has two main critiques:

  1. That Mill is attacking accumulated values and
  2. That Mill societies have a right and duty to protect themselves from such attacks.

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