• Kindly Inquisitors

  • The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition
  • By: Jonathan Rauch
  • Narrated by: Penn Jillette
  • Length: 7 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.9 out of 5 stars (323 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"A liberal society stands on the proposition that we should all take seriously the idea that we might be wrong. This means we must place no one, including ourselves, beyond the reach of criticism; it means that we must allow people to err, even where the error offends and upsets, as it often will." So writes Jonathan Rauch in Kindly Inquisitors, which has challenged listeners for more than 20 years with its bracing and provocative exploration of the issues surrounding attempts to limit free speech. In it, Rauch makes a persuasive argument for the value of "liberal science" and the idea that conflicting views produce knowledge within society.

In this expanded edition of Kindly Inquisitors, a new foreword by George F. Will strikingly shows the book's continued relevance, while a substantial new afterword by Rauch elaborates upon his original argument and brings it fully up to date. Two decades after the book's initial publication, while some progress has been made, the regulation of hate speech has grown domestically - especially in American universities - and has spread even more internationally, where there is no First Amendment to serve as a meaningful check. But the answer to bias and prejudice, Rauch argues, is pluralism - not purism. Rather than attempting to legislate bias and prejudice out of existence or to drive them underground, we must pit them against one another to foster a more vigorous and fruitful discussion. It is this process that has been responsible for the growing acceptance of the moral acceptability of homosexuality over the last 20 years. And it is this process, Rauch argues, that will enable us as a society to replace hate with knowledge, both ethical and empirical.

©2013 Jonathan Rauch (P)2013 Cato Institute

What listeners say about Kindly Inquisitors

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  • AB
  • 07-13-16

One of My Top 3 Books - Ever

A must read for everyone who thinks maybe 'free speech' is a buzzword and limits are needed, or even for people that appreciate the principle of it but don't have it in the forefront of their minds when reading the news lately.

I love Penn Jillette and his voice is great. The producer deserves a kick for not noticing the changes in his voice where they obviously did re-recordings. However, this is a great book to take advantage of Audible's cross-purchase discount with Kindle if available. You'll find dozens of passages worth highlighting.

6 people found this helpful

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Empathic defense of free expression

Jonathan Rauch may be wicked smart but his defense of free expression is anything but wicked. He’s not motivated to protect -ists, -ites, or -obes. Rauch explains why caring humanists SHOULD enthusiastically support free expression on moral and pragmatic grounds. It’s not just about why we MUST tolerate it from a cold American legal or contractual perspective. The sad story of gay rights activist Frank Kameny has a happy ending and should serve as an enduring parable about the value of free expression culture. Frank convinced people not to be homophobic bigots, and he never could have done that by silencing them under threat of punishment. Coercion can’t change minds. Rauch gets us beyond grudging compliance with the First Amendment. Read and listen to this best of books.

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Outstanding

This book makes the case for unencumbered freedom of speech in a unique and compelling way. I had never before heard the term “liberal science”, which is the core principle underlying this work. It’s a brilliant idea, and the author forcefully and effortlessly brings it to life.

Penn Jillette‘s reading is... well hey, it’s Penn! I really like his delivery. He brings passion and commitment to every word he speaks. Sometimes his reading is a little too fast, but I can easily forgive that. He moves the text along and makes the book enjoyable and dynamic.

There are a few spots where his tone of voice changes dramatically. I can’t tell if it’s because those sections were recorded later, or if perhaps they are footnotes he is reading in an intentionally subdued voice. In either case, I merely note them as anomalies; cosmetic blemishes on a beautiful work.

I recommend this book whole heartedly. I’m inclined to buy a bunch of copies and hand them out to all my friends.

3 people found this helpful

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Ahead of its time book about woke epistemology

This is a must read for anyone who wants to understand why "liberal science" philosophy is practically better for society than the post-modernist neo-marxism that is spreading through our universities, and creeping into our corporate culture, today. I bought this book after hearing James Lindsay speak about epistemology and and the problems with critical theory. Remarkably, this book was written in the early 1990's, but it speaks to current concerns issues with woke culture. After reading this you will feel better equipped to argue on behalf of enlightenment values, and against the authoritarian Twitter mob. A sequel to this book is long overdue!

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Trenchant critique of the war on free speech

Mr. Rauch already saw very clearly the anti-scientific consequences of hate speech laws and where the war on free speech was headed over 25 years ago. He was too optimistic, but forcefully made the case for being so.

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Reasoned and principled approach to epistemology

My new favorite book! Great defense of liberal ideals and the process of determining facts and truth. I recommend this without reservation.

Penn's narration is pretty good, but changes in volume and pitch for random sections is at times distracting but isn't too much to get in the way of listening.

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Best book I've read in 20 years.

This book might as well have been first published this year given how relevant this subject matter is. Mr. Rauch tackles multiple facets of society in a well-argued case for freedom of speech and thought, even for those of us who are sensitive to injustice and affliction. His explanation and definition of diverse discourse ("liberal science") describes a key ethic of discerning objective truth, one that our societies in the West are built on and needs to be practiced and defended.

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A must read

As a concerned intellectual I struggle with the state of the free world today. This book delivers in eloquent and poignant fashion a voice to all my worries and arms me with a better perspective and better arguments for what troubles me. This should be required reading for all post-primary education; Student, professor, and administrator alike.

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More important now than ever

If you could sum up Kindly Inquisitors in three words, what would they be?

Insightful, clear and powerful argument for free speech and open society. When it comes to knowledge and 'being right' no-one has the final say and it belongs to no-one in particular. If, like me, you think Free Speech is important but don't like people being mean or abusive, this is the book to cure you of your (and my) misplaced empathy. A) Free Speech matters more, and B) it is in the interests of the oppressed more than the oppressors.

What did you like best about this story?

The clarity of the case being made.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

I love Penn Jillette, but initially it felt a little rushed and bombastic (a feature we love about him on stage) so took a little time for me to get used to it and for him to settle into the job. Volunteered his time though, so big raps for that.

Any additional comments?

In a world where the Thought Police are invading all aspects of our lives, and discussion so quickly descends into the ad hominem or ad Hitlerim, this book matters.

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stupid arguments. thouroughly disappointing​

this is an AUTHOR trying to argue that words don't matter.

free and open inquiry is imperative to the American way of life. the honest exchange of ideas should and must be protected and encouraged.

but those things are vastly different from the use of speech to belittle and intimidate a specific person or group of people.

should you be allowed to be a racist? unfortunately, yes, but you should not be able to intimidate, threaten or accost a person based upon their ancestry.


should you be allowed to womanize? as long as acts stay between consenting adults and the line is not crossed into sexual harassment or assault.

the argument of this book is very simple. people are becoming too sensitive and thin-skinned. I would not disagree, but it's attempt is over-reaching and obviously aimed at people who think that God controls their life and hates black people....

1 person found this helpful

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  • London
  • 09-16-21

Amazing

Absolutely brilliant. One of the best and most important books I've ever read. A fantastic defence of free thought and inquiry.

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  • David Martin
  • 06-04-21

Essential reading

It's genuinely astonishing that this book came out in 1993, Rauch predicted the current state of our society with stunning accuracy. Absolutely essential reading for anyone wanting to understand what's going on with safe spaces, cancel culture, and increasing censorship.

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  • MICHAEL W.
  • 02-12-21

A brilliant and lucid book .

Full of wonderful insights, pacy, empassioned and approachable and all read with wit and verve. A great read that enlightens some of the key ideas of liberalism (in an approchable and balanced way) and their enemies (the Authoritarian / Humanitarian / Fundamentalist frame of minds ).

The book is a great companion to Jonathan Haidt's books (Coddling of the American Mind, Righteous Mind) and a good reminder and warning that the Neo-Puritans / Blue-Noses of earlier decades seem to share so much with the authoritarian Woke brigade of today (the new potential philosopher kings of our days...).

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  • Johan Westerdahl
  • 06-24-22

Brilliant book! Easy to follow and nicely argued!

This book makes a comprehensive argument for the liberal world order and free speech.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-07-21

relevant and engaging

tough subject in our time of increasingly polarising public statements. such a breath of fresh air though to have a look back at just how far we have matured. just need all of us to play the 'science game' so we can continue to move to a reasoned and thoughtful future.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-14-20

fast talking but awesome

excellent book.
I found playing this at 0.85 speed made it sound at normal speed to me and I was able to listen more comfortably.

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  • Shane Connor
  • 03-15-19

A must listen!

Relevant in today's political and social climate.

A must listen for all, hard to believe it was written over 20 years ago.