Steven Pinker Presents: 'Why Free Speech is Fundamental'

Steven Pinker

Is free speech merely a symbolic talisman, like a national flag or motto? Is it just one of many values that we trade off against each other? Or is free speech fundamental — a right which, if not absolute, should be abrogated only in carefully circumscribed cases? Join Steven Pinker on Wednesday, April 4 for "Why Free Speech is Fundamental." 

Pinker argues that free speech is indeed fundamental, and that it’s important to remind ourselves why and to have the reasons at our fingertips when that right is called into question. In his Boston Globe op-ed, Pinker discusses that "campus speech codes, disinvited commencement speakers, jailed performance artists, exiled leakers, a blogger condemned to a thousand lashes by one of our closest allies, and the massacre of French cartoonists have forced the democratic world to examine the roots of its commitment to free speech." 

Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics and social relations. He grew up in Montreal and earned his Bachelor of Arts from McGill and his doctorate from Harvard. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. He has won numerous prizes for his research, his teaching and his nine books, including "The Language Instinct," "How the Mind Works," "The Blank Slate," "The Better Angels of Our Nature," and "The Sense of Style." He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and one of Foreign Policy’s “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary and writes frequently for The New York Times, The Guardian and other publications. His tenth book, to be published in February 2018, is called "Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress."

This event is last in the “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education and American Society” 2017/2018 series sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and co-sponsored by the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law at Arizona State University. This discussion will be held at the Old Main on the Tempe campus, followed by a reception from 6:157 p.m. Parking will be available in the Fulton Center Parking Structure for $3 per hour.

Continuing Legal Education Credit (CLE) is available with this event. The State Bar of Arizona does not approve or accredit CLE activities for the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education requirement. This activity may qualify for up to 1.0 hours toward your annual CLE requirement for the State Bar of Arizona, including 0.0 hour(s) of professional responsibility. CLE participants should register here.

For more information about the newly established School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, please visit For questions about this event, email or call 480-965-0155.

Melissa Castle-Kirincic
School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership
Old Main, Carson Ballroom