Free Speech or True Speech?

"Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit: and not a series of disconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes a part of his nature."
—Edmund Burke

Few names are more notorious in the contemporary academic and culture wars than that of Stanley Fish. Among conservatives, he is mockingly dismissed as the representative of all that is evil in the modern university: a man for whom texts mean whatever the reader wants them to mean and who is hell-bent on destroying the canon of Western literature—and thus Western civilization itself. In most critical accounts, Fish is presented as either a sophistic buffoon or a cancer on the academy, and he has recently been portrayed as both in Dinesh D'Souza's Illiberal Education, a book that sets the context for several of the essays in There's No Such Thing as Free Speech.

But conservatives do themselves and Fish a great disservice by not attending to his real arguments, either to meet them when they are wrong, or, as is probably more often the case, to learn from them when they are right. Fish's challenges to some of the sacred tenets of conservative political and cultural theory are among the most powerful that have been made, and they must not be left unchallenged. For instance, his defense of affirmative action and minority set-aside programs in the university is among...

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