Quora Question: Why should books not be censored?
There are a number of problems with the idea that books should be censored. Here are just a few.
Perhaps the better question to ask would be: For those who advocate banning certain books, what are your arguments for doing this? I can’t imagine any argument that would outweigh other more important considerations; chief among them the importance of the free exchange of ideas.
Ideas are inherently dangerous and subversive. They usually advocate some sort of change or reform. Those changes or reforms are threatening to those in power whoever they may be. As such, if you make an argument for banning books, there are very few books that would truly be “safe” from this practice. Those that would be safe would be so banal and uninteresting as to be not worth reading, to begin with.
Any idea worth writing about is an idea that will offend someone or disturb someone’s thinking, challenge their beliefs, or threaten the status quo in some way. But, that’s precisely why we need those ideas.
Freedom of expression is too important a value and necessary to a flourishing society to risk the chilling effect of banning books.
A2A on Quora: Can a teacher make you read a book that does not fit your moral standards?
No one can make you read a book. You can be assigned a book but are not compelled to read it.
Of course, not reading an assigned book has academic consequences (as it should). But, these pale in comparison to other consequences to not reading a book that differs from your beliefs.
Learning is about broadening your horizon, your perspective, and your knowledge. As a student taking a class, you are in the position of someone who has something to learn. Of course, you have knowledge and beliefs coming into the class but you could also benefit from an expansion of your knowledge and some challenges to your beliefs. Both of those will come by doing such reading.
As a result of reading a book that does not fit your moral standards, you may discover more about yourself and your moral beliefs. You may discover ways to strengthen your moral position. You might also discover that there are flaws in your moral reasoning that should be addressed.
In either case, you will certainly learn something useful and that is the whole point of reading books in the first place.
As an adult, you should then continue this practice of reading material you might disagree with. Reading and exposing yourself only to ideas you already agree with is not the way to grow as a human being and certainly not the way to become actively engaged in a diverse community.
One of the best lessons you will learn from your education is that it is possible to examine ideas and understand them even without accepting them. Ultimately, you have a choice about what ideas to accept and reject. You should strive to evaluate ideas in light of the best available evidence and reason and accept those ideas.
In some cases, the best available reason and evidence might support the beliefs you already hold. In other cases, reason and evidence will show that your ideas are not well-founded. In those cases, you still have a choice to make.
A good education will help you become a good critical thinker and good critical thinkers follow reason and the evidence where it leads recognizing that sometimes it will lead them to adopt different ideas than the ones they started with.
At some point this year (2022), I will read my 2,000th book. I thought I'd revisit a post I made years ago regarding my 1,000 book milestone.
On September 10, 2010, I read my 1,000th book. I started counting books I completed in 1987 so it took a little over 20 years to reach my 1,000th book.
Upon reaching the milestone of reading 1000 books, it seems appropriate to reflect on what I have learned as a result of all that reading. The temptation is to enumerate a list of facts or insights gained from individual books. Doing this might be a worthwhile project but would be a book unto itself and might not yield any insights to other readers. Instead, I want to reflect on a few general points.
You can’t read every book. You can’t retain everything you read. Given these facts what counts as being well-read? It’s an interesting question to consider in a world where more and more books are being published every year thus making the goal of keeping up with knowledge nearly impossible. Even if you choose to specialize in one discipline, being well-read in that discipline is extremely difficult. But, is there a way to attain a level of general knowledge that is both achievable and useful? And, what are the benefits of such knowledge?
There are many ways to learn. However, I think books are one of the best. Having read over 1,200 books I would say that! Of course, there is more to learning any subject than reading but, I think there are still many tangible benefits to reading books and I would like to outline some of those here.
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator