Intellectual agency and responsibility for belief in freespeech theory

Robert Mark Simpson

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The idea that human beings are intellectually self-governing plays two roles in freespeech theory. First, this idea is frequently called upon as part of the justification for free speech. Second, it plays a role in guiding the translation of free-speech principles into legal policy by underwriting the ascriptive framework through which responsibility for certain kinds of speech harms can be ascribed. After mapping out these relations, I ask what becomes of them once we acknowledge certain very general and profound limitations in people s capacity for intellectual self-governance. I argue that acknowledging these limitations drastically undermines the putative justifications for free speech of the type that I identify in the first part of the paper. I then show how we can reformulate an ascriptive account of intellectual and doxastic responsibility on which we may still be held responsible for what we think or believe even though we lack agent-causal capacities in our thinking and believing. Then, in light of this ascriptive account of intellectual responsibility, I show how the key idea - that people have minds of their own can (and should) still play a significant role in guiding the legislative outworkings of free speech.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307 - 330
Number of pages24
JournalLegal Theory
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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