In his essay “Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment,” Yale Law Professor Thomas Emerson makes an argument against government regulation of speech – in other words for allowing speech to be as free as possible. Written in 1962, the article is today a classic, read all over the world. Emerson offers four theoretical explanations for permitting free speech – to encourage self-realization; to enable the search for truth; to create a ‘social safety valve,’ or the ability to accommodate change; and to enable self-government.
The debate: Do these justifications make sense, or is there evidence or reasons to think that Emerson is wrong? If these four justifications made sense in 1962, when Emerson wrote the essay, do they still make sense today, or have circumstances changed how we should think about these arguments?
-“Toward a General Theory of the First Amendment,” Emerson
-“Free Speech Topoi,” LaMay, which identifies several of the classic arguments used in free speech debates
-“Free Speech and Kittens,”
The propositions: Argue one of these propositions as assigned by group. Your contribution to discussion is not done primarily as a group, but as individuals. In your arguments, be sure to use and identify the arguments in the TOPOI article assigned as reading for the week.
Groups 7-9: Tolerating speech that is false or even dangerous serves a socially useful purpose in that it allows people to blow off steam and it exposes those ideas for public debate. Tolerance for differing ideas and points of views is also the essential mark of an open society.
so we are with dangerous speech
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