There are many reasons we already do limit speech and regulate it to some degree. Speaking specifically here in the America’s, we already have laws that limit speech for issues like breech of privacy, by court order, and of course for inciting violence. But here are 7 philosophical reasons that we ought limit freedom of speech even further,

1) Because we all fall under the social contract. (No, it’s not a piece of paper. It means when you live amongst a society then it is necessary to relinquish certain freedoms in order to peacefully co-exist. I would argue this is a logical absolute. In order to have a free society or ANY society you must relinquish certain freedoms as to not breach the freedoms and rights of another). Thank Thomas Hobbs for that one.

2) Because hate speech is harmful and abusive, which should be rightfully limited by the government. (The old platitude “sticks and stones may break my bones but words don’t hurt”, is both silly and wrong. Words do hurt! Words can have a positive and negative effect on others. This goes into Mill’s no harm principle, that the only times a government can/ought to exercise power is when it harms others).

3) Because it appeals to our civil liberties, (Let’s remember in civics limiting rights is part and parcel of having civil rights because there are positive and negative rights. Yes, you have the freedom to things but also from things).

4) Because within a Republic everything is self-correcting. (The beauty of a republic is that we are always able to revisit old statues and amend them at any time. So if we were to limit freedom of speech nothing would be absolute. So even if we struggle to understand what is harmful and abusive speech we can always go back and revisit old statutes and discuss them in a ceremonious way).

5) Limiting free speech doesn’t limit speech, (There’s an argument to be made that constraints lead to creativity. You may have heard of the term flash-fiction in literature, stories with extreme brevity. One of the most famous being the 6-word story often attributed to Ernest Hemingway. Or probably an even more famous version of flash-fiction Haiku. So it could be argued that limiting free speech and certain types of words could create more meaningful dialog).

6) Because free-speech cannot be avoided. (There’s an argument by the late legal philosopher Joel Feinberg called the offensive principle. But the name is very misleading, it should rather be called the avoidance principle. Feinberg argues that limiting speech that is heinous and offensive is necessary because it has an adverse effect on our daily lives. Feinberg would argue that things like publications, artistic works, and even certain public spheres would be protected given that they can easily be avoided and have no greater effect on any person’s daily life).

7) Free-speech silences others? (This plays into the concept of tyranny of the majority but as J.S. Mill wrote tyranny of decided opinion or the deep slumber of decided opinion. J.S. Mill criticized the conformist society as suppressing dissenting – unpopular opinions; however, it should be noted Mill’s conclusion was in favor of the modern day concept of free-speech. But it should also be noted that this was not his argument. His argument raises the question as to the nature of conformist societies and whether they foster such environments where views and opinions of minorities can be expressed fully.)

Explanation: Let’s not fall into a perfect solution fallacy. I’m not saying that limiting free-speech will solve everything but it will definitely deter people from using abusive speech to hurt others. Now I don’t care what you agree or disagree with, this isn’t 1984 thought policing, but I would argue that it’s more in terms of how you say something. Even the densest of people and my most ardent detractors can spot the difference between the writings of St. Jerome vs the West Borough Baptist Church. The former is tolerable, even though I disagree, but the later is purely intolerable and should rightfully be suppressed because that type of speech is abusive and harmful to others.

“People demand freedom of speech to make up for the freedom of thought which they seldom use” – Soren Kierkegaard

– Jubilee Nunnallee 6/11/2017


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