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Intellectual Agency and Responsibility for Belief in Free Speech Theory

Simpson, RM; (2013) Intellectual Agency and Responsibility for Belief in Free Speech Theory. Legal Theory , 19 (3) pp. 307-330. 10.1017/S1352325213000177. Green open access

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Abstract

The idea that human beings are intellectually self-governing plays two roles in free-speech 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. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014.

Type: Article
Title: Intellectual Agency and Responsibility for Belief in Free Speech Theory
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1017/S1352325213000177
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1017/S1352325213000177
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10181251
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