Wednesday, November 11, 2009

David Bakan: On Concealing Knowledge in the Interest of the Public

Bakan, David. “Power, method, and ethics: a reflection on Bateson’s view of moral and national character.” The Individual, Communication, and Society. Ed. Robert W. Rieber. NY: Cambridge UP, 1989: 31-47.

We consider the possibility that the very power inherent in a mode of thought might be a determining factor in connection with the academic neglect of that mode of thought. We consider how the urge to conceal knowledge is benign. Thus, the argument can be made that librarians should censor books on explosives that might be useful to terrorists. However, we have always to ask whether terrorists do not already have that information; and whether the public interest demands a widespread knowledge about explosives in order that the public may be in a proper position to defend itself against terrorists. We soon conclude that every argument in favor of concealing knowledge is unacceptable. The only reasonable, reliable, and enduring protection against dangerous knowledge is the widest dissemination of knowledge. (35)

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