The Social Character of Freedom of Expression

Richard Moon


Freedom of expression protects the individual’s freedom to communicate with others. The right of the individual is to participate in an activity that is deeply social in character.  The value of freedom of expression rests on the social nature of individuals and the constitutive character of public discourse. This understanding of the freedom, however, has been inhibited by the individualism that dominates contemporary thinking about rights—its assumptions about the pre-social individual and the instrumental value of community life. While the social character of human agency is seldom mentioned in the different accounts of the freedom’s value, it is the unstated premise of each. Once we recognize that individual agency and identity emerge in the social relationship of communication, the traditional split between intrinsic and instrumental accounts (and between speaker and listener -based accounts) of the value of freedom of expression dissolves. 


Freedom of Expression

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Copyright (c) 2009 Richard Moon

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