Tim Scanlon on Free Speech
Ethics Bites (Open University)
Host: David Edmonds and Nigel Warburton
For John Stuart Mill the limit of freedom of speech in a civilized society was roughly the point where a speaker was inciting violence. But perhaps it isn't as simple as that. For free speech, in the well-known example, doesn’t entitle us to shout "Fire!” in a crowded theatre. Where then should we draw the line, and why?
Tim Scanlon, Professor in Harvard University’s Philosophy Department, has spent much of his career reflecting about issues of toleration and free speech. His initial writings on the topic stressed that the value of free speech lay in autonomy – in particular, the right of individuals to have access to information so as to be able to think for themselves. Now he has a more nuanced view – which takes into account the interests of both speaker and listener, and empirical considerations about the danger of granting powers of regulation to the state.
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