PHIL 481: Political Speech and Hate Speech (satisfies PHIL pre-law requirement)
Course Description: Many liberal democracies are deeply committed to the
principle of free speech. However, exactly what a right to free speech
entails is unclear and controversial. Moreover, evidence demonstrates
that some kinds of speech, especially when unregulated, are detrimental
to other important liberal values such as social equality and political
participation. Might a commitment to equality require that we regulate
speech that is harmful? What is the extent of these harms? Which kinds
of speech are harmful in ways that merit such regulation?
The course explores the
practical, political, and theoretical commitments implicit in the First
Amendment and the various arguments for protecting and regulating
political expression. The course also examines real-world cases of access to
political speech, especially through campaign activities, and hate
speech directed at one’s racial, gender, or sexual identity. Students
will read First Amendment jurisprudence, its history in the Supreme
Court, and political theories concerning the relationship between speech
and democratic representation. Students will explore how these theories bear on
questions about our access to political speech and whether campaign
fundraising practices undermine the value of free speech and our
political expression. They will also study whether hate speech ought to be
protected by the First Amendment. A range of arguments for and against
will be considered.
The course is taught by Professor John Ramsey and meets TR 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. in HSS 224.