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Reading: The Social Character of Freedom of Expression


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The Social Character of Freedom of Expression


Richard Moon

University of Windsor, CA
About Richard
Professor Richard Moon teaches at the Faculty of Law. Richard Moon teaches both private and public law courses. His research focuses on freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and religion, and the structural aspects of constitutional rights protection. His current research concerning religious freedom is funded by a general grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. In 1994 he was awarded the first University of Windsor Humanities Research Fellowship. From 2003 to 2005 he was the President of the Canadian Law and Society Association. In 2009 he was awarded the University of Windsor Alumni Award for Distinguished Contributions to University Teaching.
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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.

How to Cite: Moon, R., 2009. The Social Character of Freedom of Expression. Amsterdam Law Forum, 2(1), pp.43–48. DOI:
Published on 14 Dec 2009.


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