Short writing assignments must be no less than two hundred (200) of your own words. This means that quotations do not count against the two hundred words. I will not even read assignments shorter than the required minimum of 200 words (I use a program to monitor word-count) and you will automatically receive zero (0) points for any such assignments. I expect a professionally written essay that is well formulated, without spelling and grammatical errors. I will deduct points for sloppily written essays (see the rubric below). In your essay you should address the question posed directly and thoroughly. You do not need to waste too much space on background unless the question of the essay specifically demands such background.
Do you think that educational institutions such as universities and colleges should adopt a speech-codethat regulates hate speech? Do you think that such a code is compatible with the moral right to free speech?
Your answer should take the shape of an argument that addresses all three layers of the problem discussed in my class notes as well as the arguments presented in the essays by Arthur and Altman.
I expect a professionally written essay that incorporates the lessons you learned from previous essays.
Notes from Instructor
Mill (2007); Arthur (2007); Altman (2007).
Note: Remember that you must also read the articles assigned each week. Instructor’s notes are not a substitute for reading the original articles.
In this week supplementary notes I will not outline the readings. Instead I will let students analyze themselves the readings without the benefit of outlining the authors myself. I expect that at this time you should be able to do so yourself. This should be a valuable exercise for you all. I will however outline the Preliminary-Section to set up the problem for you. Next week I will continue outlining the readings as usual.
1. This week we explore the topic of free-speech. Free speech is a topic that spans throughout three intimately interconnected layers: moral, legal, and institutional.
I. Moral Layer: The central moral question is whether individual human persons have a moral right to free speech and if so, what is the basis of this right. Since the Enlightenment it has been supposed that among the natural rights with which persons are endowed is the right to speak freely without unjustified interference by others. By ‘natural’ right I mean a right that is not gained by means of a legal privilege or a de jure right. A natural right is rather an inherent part of what it is to be a person and consequently it is logically or conceptually (not historically) prior to any external authority.
What is the basis of the moral right to free speech, if such exists?
The most viable answer is that the right to free speech emanates from the fact that persons are autonomous beings that are endowed with the ability to self-govern themselves guided by the light of their own self-reflective reason. Since persons are self-governing beings, the source of any authority to which they may be subject must arise from their own autonomous nature and must be justified based on such autonomy. Thus, all external authority that limits the rights of individual persons must be ultimately justified in terms of an autonomous transfer of such authority to an external source. This principle that governs the establishment of a social structure and the authority of any sovereign determines the scope and limits of the authority of any governmental institution.
What are the benefits of free-speech within a social context?
In his ground breaking essay Freedom of Thought and Discussion, Mill (2007) has enumerated three fundamental benefits to free speech in any social environment: (i) Free speech is necessary in a social context in order to pursue the truth; (ii) Free speech is necessary in a social context in order to protect other rights such as the right to liberty, privacy, and religion; and (iii) Free speech is necessary in a social context in order to enable and enhance the autonomy of individual persons.
II. Legal Layer: In the United States all legal matters are instituted by the Constitution and its interpretation by the Supreme Court to particular cases. Among a variety of other provisions, the Constitution governs the scope and limit of various branches of the Federal Government as well as all other local authorities.
The drafters of the Constitution were influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment and the Social Contract Theory which offered a novel justification of the authority of the state. It is, therefore, not a surprise that the Constitution guarantees the legal right of free speech as one of the most basic pillars of our society. It is important to understand that the constitutional right of free speech constraints first and foremost the authority of governmental institutions (at all levels) to limit the freedom of speech of persons and does not as such apply to non-governmental institutions. However, the protection of free speech extends beyond governmental institutions under conditions determined by the Supreme Court.
III. Institutional Layer: By ‘institutional layer’ I mean all non-governmental institutions, including educational institutions. Our current topic pertains to the following question:
Are educational institutions such as colleges and universities justified to implement a speech-code designed to regulate what may be said within the confines of such institutions?
It is important to emphasize that the problem of speech-codes is not primarily constitutional or even a matter of academic freedom. Even if some form of speech-code is deemed constitutional and does not violate academic freedoms, it is still an open question whether academic institutions are justified to implement such codes and under what conditions.
The two authors on this week’s reading list examine the conditions under speech-codes are justified. Both authors agree that speech-codes are justified only if they restrict speech that is harmful to an individual or group. The question is what constitutes such harm. Pay careful attention how Arthur and Altman analyze the relevant notion of harm caused by certain kind of speech and the differences in their analysis. Good Luck!
Sample A paper from instructor DO NOT USE please
The topic of free speech touches the nearly all bases concerning the landscape of human autonomy. The question most salient in the matter—should the freedom to say what one wants, when one wants, and where one wants to be legally permissible—is taken up by philosopher’s John Stuart Mill, John Arthur, and Andrew Altman. Mill proposes that it’s unjust to thwart any opinion, whether true or false. However, he believes it’s imperative to control the timing and location of free speech. Arthur expands on Mills’ proposition, advocating for free speech without government censorship. Altman proposes an antithesis to Arthurs argument, proposing that speech codes (rules that punish those for speech meant to others based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and sexual identity) should define the boundaries of free speech.
Layers of free speech
Moral layer- The moral—opposed to the natural—right to speak freely on the level of inherent human principles.
Legal layer- The rights given through the Constitution and Supreme Court.
Institutional layer- the rights given in non-government institutions, i.e., universities.
Speech code applied to each layer
The speech code is unconsciously applied here. Humans are creatures that thrive on interpersonal connection and to maintain this connection it’s imperative that humans interact in ways that promote benign characteristics: love, goodwill, empathy, and compassion. However, the inherent speech code branching from human morality is only congruous with small tribes of close neighbors and family. It can’t be applied to large civilizations inundated with unfamiliar faces and agendas.
Unlike the moral layer, the legal layer can impose moral rules in a utilitarian—whats best for most—manner, not falling victim to tribalism or biases, but instead remaining impartial to the well-being of human beings overall. While speech codes shouldn’t be applied too broadly as to eliminate important opinions, there are multidimensional instances in which codes are critically essential: verbally inciting a rowdy crowd of white supremacists to bludgeon a by-standing Jewish family. Non-mailable speech codes applied to this layer are bound to violate basic human rights, due to the complexity and fickleness of human desires, as well as our differing capacities of dealing with suffering.
Here, in this layer, there are clear justifications to uphold a speech code, especially in educational institutions (universities & colleges).
The educational institutions are homesteads for rational thinking, as opposed to safe havens for irrationality
Many college and university students are 18 or older, making them legal adults, but are new to the autonomous lifestyle, and are more prone to coercion and harm taken from offensive opinions.
Lack of speech codes can dramatically hinder students learning experience due to the possible emotional incitement it can cause. For example, It’s more conducive to institutional equality that impulsive student (a) faces speech code repercussions over the sensitive student (b) facing offensive repercussions from the student (a). _________________________________