Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

[op-ed snap] The nature of dissent


Mains Paper 4: Ethics

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Importance of dissent and its curbing in recent times


Prevalence of dissent

  1. Disagreeing with each other is a fundamental human trait
  2. At a primordial level, we become individuals only through this act of stating our disagreement
  3. Dissent is thus a condition of existence

Silent assent is a problem

  1. The real problem is not dissent but silent assent
  2. When we agree collectively, we are silently assenting, agreeing with what is being said and done
  3. This is really not the existential characteristic of a human being but only that of a ‘bonded mind’
  4. A group made up of people who agree to everything all the time is not really a society but an oligarchy
  5. A society gets its own identity by learning to dissent

Managing dissent

  1. A mature society is one which has the capacity to manage dissent since members of a society will always disagree with each other on something or the other
  2. Democratic societies are the best of the available models in managing dissent with the least harmful effect on the dissenter
  3. Elections and voting are the means to achieve this
  4. The essence of democracy is to be found in the method it uses to deal with dissent, which is through discussion and debate, along with particular ethical norms
  5. A democratic society manages dissent by trying to make individual practices of dissent into social practices
  6. Academics and research are two important activities where dissent is at the core
  7. Many new ideas arise by going against earlier established norms and truths
  8. No two philosophers agree on one point, and no two social scientists are in perfect harmony with each other’s thoughts
  9. Buddha and Mahavira were dissenters first and philosophers next

Why is dissent required?

  1. Dissent is not just about criticism, it is also about showing new perspectives
  2. It is necessary for the survival of the human race
  3. Any society which eradicates dissent has only succeeded in eradicating itself
  4. The examples of Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia prove this
  5. A sustainable, harmonious society can only be formed from practices which deal with dissent respectfully and ethically

Ethics of dissent

  1. There is also a fundamental ethical principle involved in dissent
  2. Any society which muzzles dissent is acting unethically
  3. The first ethical principle is related to non-violence, a principle which is so integral to the unique Indian practices of dissent from ancient times to Gandhi and Ambedkar
  4. The second ethical principle is that the worse off in a society have a greater right to dissent and protest even when the more privileged may not agree or sympathise with that dissent

Freedom of dissent required

  1. Dissent is an ethical means of protecting those who are worse off than others
  2. When we hear the voices of dissent from the oppressed and the marginalised, it is ethically incumbent upon those who are better off than them to give them greater space and greater freedom to dissent
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preetish kamat
preetish kamat
1 year ago

Thank you !!