Back in May, the UK government introduced a bill that according to its description would aim to strengthen the legal duties on higher education institutions to protect freedom of speech on campuses for students, academics and visiting speakers.
This month, the Higher Education Committee has been hearing oral evidence by academics, activists and students on their views on the bill, before its put before the commons for a vote.
So is this a bill trying to solve a real free speech problem on campuses around the country? Or is the government joining the culture wars, exaggerating the degree of cancel culture on campuses, and attempting to help promote the conservative views of its voters, generally unpopular with students and academics?
Are the current legal protections of free speech not enough to ensure that academics and students are able to express themselves freely, and have those who direct threats and abusive messages towards them punished accordingly?
And is John Stuart Mill’s argument that free speech ensures the dissemination of truth and knowledge still fit for the 21st century?
Arif Ahmed is a reader in philosophy at the University of Cambridge, and a specialist in the philosophy of language, having written books on Wittgenstein and Kripke, among others. Arif is also a passionate defender of free speech, and was one of the academics giving oral evidence to the Higher education committee this month. As you will hear, Arif is broadly in favour of the bill, and despite our disagreement, makes a forceful and passionate case for why he thinks the protection of free speech by the government has become necessary.