[SydPhil] Workshop: "Free speech and Legitimation" UOW 13 February

Sarah Sorial sarahs at uow.edu.au
Thu Jan 30 08:47:42 AEDT 2014

Dear All, 

The Philosophy Program in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts at the University of Wollongong is hosting a half day workshop: "Free Speech and Legitimation."

Date: Thursday 13 February 
Time: 9-1pm
Location: 19.2072B LHA Research Hub, The University of Wollongong



Dr Robert Simpson (Monash)

Title: Understanding legitimation

Abstract: Philosophers and social theorists writing about identity-based social hierarchies sometimes use the word legitimation in an interesting way. They say things like: ‘gay jokes legitimate homophobic hate crime’, or ‘pornography legitimates sexual discrimination’. In contrast to the more typical ways that the term ‘legitimation’ is used in the social sciences, theorists who use the term in the above manner are not calling attention to arenas in which power or authority has been monopolised and secured. Rather, they are calling our attention to certain kinds of conflicts in power and authority. When an author says that pornography legitimates sexual discrimination, she is not to saying that where there is pornography, sexual discrimination is accepted by all as normal and permissible. Rather, she is saying that pornography lends some ersatz form of legitimacy to sexual discrimination, irrespective of the fact that sexual discrimination is illegitimate from a formal and institutional perspective. The question I’m interested in is how one would best characterise the kind of ersatz legitimacy that is implicitly adverted to by this usage of the term legitimation. I will distinguish and investigate two approaches, one which stresses the fragmented character of social groups and their governing standards, and one which stresses the plurality of governing standards within groups.

10.00-10.30: Morning Tea


Professor Luke McNamara (UOW)

Title: The Impact of Hate Speech Laws: Lessons from Australia

Authors: Luke McNamara and Kath Gelber/ Presenter: Luke McNamara


An important, through frequently controversial, component of the human rights framework that emerged in the post-WW2 period is an expectation that states enact domestic legislation to address various form of ‘hate speech’. In Australia, the first such laws were developed in the late 1980s. This paper reports on the results of a large-scale empirical study of the impact of hate speech laws on public discourse in Australia over the last 25 years. We consider whether hate speech laws have met the aims of: providing a remedy for the harms occasioned by hate speech; encouraging a modification towards more respectful public discourse; and serving a symbolic and educative function in relation to the values of diversity and equality. We conclude that the benefits of hate speech laws, while extant and important, are partial and contingent. There are significant procedural and substantive barriers to the effective operation of hate speech laws in Australia.


Dr Sarah Sorial (UOW)

Title: Taking the duty of non-interference seriously: internal limits to free speech rights 

Abstract: The right to free speech is an entrenched democratic right. It is considered crucial in any liberal democratic state because it ensures the legitimacy of the law-making process, enables citizens to hold governments to account, facilitates the discovery of truth, and contributes to individual flourishing. While there is substantial discussion in both the philosophical and legal literature with respect to the question of what duties are owed to citizens to ensure that their right to free speech is protected, there is surprisingly little discussion about the duties that citizens owe others in how they exercise their right to free speech. 

In this paper, I focus on the right to free speech and the correlative duty of non-interference that is owed to speakers by governments and by others. I defend two main claims: first, taking the right to non-interference seriously means that every speaker who enjoys free speech rights also has a duty of non-interference with the speech rights of others. The duty of non-interference generates an internal limit to the right to free speech, or imposes constraints on what speakers can say. Second, that this limit does not generate a conflict of rights between liberty rights and equality rights. Instead, these perceived cases of a conflict of rights are more accurately interpreted as a failure of the speaker to meet her duty of non-interference with the speech rights of others.

There is no registration fee but please RSVP by February 5 for catering purposes. 

Dr Sarah Sorial
Senior Lecturer
The University of Wollongong
Wollongong NSW 2522
+61 2 4221 5034

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