Just a Rationalization? Free Speech, Absolutism, and Motivated Reasoning

Russell Blackford


On a few occasions in recent years, I’ve found my best attempts to analyze the complexities of a difficult topic met by the snarky insistence that I am merely rationalizing my own preferences. Honesty, it’s suggested, requires a simple, absolutist stance.

The most recent occasion followed my publication, on the Cogito multi­author philosophy blog, of a post in which I expressed my disgust at Gawker’s latest yellow journalism. Gawker, the popular gossip blog, had just revealed a gay or bisexual man’s alleged attempts to hire a gay prostitute on a planned interstate trip. Though the person concerned was a senior finance executive, he was in no sense a public figure or someone who could plausibly be condemned for hypocrisy. Even if there might be some circumstances in which such cruel, prurient invasions of privacy are justifiable, this situation was remote from them.

My Cogito musings of July 17, 2015, were a small part of a far more widespread outcry, and (too little, too late!) Gawker ended up removing the offending post. That, however, is a separate story with its own ramifications and lessons.

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