The Dimensions of Free Speech

The Dimensions of Free Speech

Nicholas Gruen ( explores a way he's come to think about society with Peyton Bowman and represents it in a diagram, which is the first slide in these slides. (Note only the first two slides were used in this talk). The diagram illustrates the principles which should characterize communication within any kind of community — in which Nicholas would include organizations like a firm or something larger like a national polity.

Isegoria — or equality of speech — is a 'horizontal' value — calling for everyone to be heard no matter their status in society. But the ‘vertical’ concept of parrhēsia is also absent. Parrhēsia is usually translated as "freedom of speech," but it’s a richer idea infused with mutual ethical obligation. It is the importance of speaking truth to power, but it also entails the powerful's duty to listen to what they're being told. In our society those lower down are mostly expected to flatter those above, and so they "gild the lily," and tell the kinds of stories the powerful want to be told. The result is lies all the way up the line. (see:

We explore these ideas in the classroom and then in organizations. Nicholas uses the example of Toyota, which shows how empowering those on the line is an astoundingly more productive way to make cars efficiently than having people directed by, and fearful of, those above.  There are two other orders within which these ideas are explored. Throughout the discussion, they refer back to political life, and towards the end they also talk about science, which also enables us to discuss an additional concept in the diagram, the notion of fidelity. That leaves a fourth principle ‘merit’ to be explained in a future discussion!

Subscribe to Protoclassic

Don’t miss out on the latest issues. Sign up now!