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Seminar in Free Speech

COMN 3470

This course will survey some of the major conceptual innovations in the justifications of freedom of speech. We will begin with an exploration of the traditional defenses of free speech and then move to a reexamination of those defenses in light of modern communication theory and the challenges of pluralism. In particular we will ask if the justifications of free speech need to be rethought given our understanding of speech as a social force that constitutes identities and values rather than merely expressing private opinions. Moreover, given our understanding of the social force of speech, should we regulate speech that is racist, sexist and seems to erode the foundations of a public culture based on mutual respect and public deliberation over social goods? Can we devise a robust defense of free speech based on its social force that both protects those that may be harmed by antidemocratic discourses and still provides the resources for democratic dissent?