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Liberal tradition gives freedom of expression

Published 25/11/2016

Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor
Belfast Telegraph letters to the Editor

Eric Conway, in his defence of Donald Trump (Write Back, November 23), seems to revel in his rather idiosyncratic use of the word 'liberal'.

This 'Humpty Dumpty' approach to the meaning of words, by which Alice's friend asserts in Through The Looking Glass that a word means just what he chooses it to mean, leads to the kind of linguistic confusion that permeates Mr Conway's letter.

Mr Trump, too, had a way with words which made it difficult to determine what he really stood for. He was the master of a form of political rhetoric that eschews any reference to moral, or rational, considerations.

Contrary to what Mr Conway seems to imply, the liberal tradition is not focused on forming a group of like-minded people; it is more concerned with nurturing our critical capacity to engage intelligently with the world.

The concept of a liberal education is rooted in the idea that we can all rise above our particular conceptions of the world through initiation into the traditions of knowledge and inquiry that we have inherited and share. To state, "the reason liberals are so hung up on a college education is because nowadays this largely guarantees a sound indoctrination in liberal/feminist dogma" has no basis in reality.

These third-level institutions, as described by Mr Conway, are the stuff of nightmares.

Besides, it is disingenuous to equate liberal thinking with feminism, betraying layers of confusion that reach well beyond the realm of reason.

What the liberal tradition guarantees is Mr Conway's right to express his views, using the means of communication he decries in order to do so.

PHILIP O'NEILL

By email

Online Editors

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