The Art of Veiled Speech: Self-Censorship from Aristophanes to Hobbes

The Art of Veiled Speech: Self-Censorship from Aristophanes to Hobbes

The Art of Veiled Speech: Self-Censorship from Aristophanes to Hobbes

The Art of Veiled Speech: Self-Censorship from Aristophanes to Hobbes

Synopsis

Throughout Western history, there have been those who felt compelled to share a dissenting opinion on public matters, while still hoping to avoid the social, political, and even criminal consequences for exercising free speech. In this collection of fourteen original essays, editors Han Baltussen and Peter J. Davis trace the roots of censorship far beyond its supposed origins in early modern history.

Excerpt

Jocasta: What is hard for exiles?
Polynices: One thing is biggest: he has no parrhêsia.
Jocasta:
Not saying what you think, that’s typical of a slave.
Jocasta: That is painful, being foolish with the foolish.
Polynices: For the sake of gain you have to be a slave against your
nature.

—Euripides, Phoenician Women

In this brief exchange between a mother and her exiled son, Euripides has Jocasta and Polynices discuss the place of parrhêsia in fifth-century Athenian thinking. First, parrhêsia is the property of a free citizen: it characterizes a man who is free (i.e., he is not a slave) and who participates in the affairs of his native city (i.e., he is not an exile). Second, parrhêsia is defined not as “free speech” as commonly understood in the twenty-first century, as a universal human right, but as “frank speech,” the ability to “say what you think.” In the view of Jocasta and Polynices, slaves and exiles must hide their true thoughts. The tension between “frank speech,” typical of the ideal free citizen, and the art of “veiled speech,” that is, the methods of expression adopted by the lessthan-free, is this book’s central theme.

This opening chapter both sets out the broader conceptual framework we . . .

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