RESPONSIBILITIES FOR HATEFUL SPEECH Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • This essay consolidates some fragments of the contemporary theory of expressive freedoms, bringing together scattered conceptual distinctions (e.g., hurting and harming, tolerating and legitimating) and moves (e.g., the need to rectify hateful speech and to constrain harmful actions legally) into an account that is sensitive to the needs of abused groups but faithful to the libertarian tradition associated with Mill's harm principle. Accepting this principle as the fundamental condition warranting legal control of action, we explore legislative responsibilities for protecting expressive freedoms through three additional presumptions. The chief of them is an expectation of epistemic rationality that limits occasions of harm requiring legal action. A presumption of enablement over punishment shows that criminal sanctions for hateful speech are almost never appropriate. A presumption of multiple responsibilities accepts that social sanctions may be appropriate where political coercion is not.

publication date

  • June 2006