Waldron, Responsibility-Rights, and Hate Speech

23 Pages Posted: 23 Jul 2015

Date Written: 2011


Jeremy Waldron argues that rights can be, and in some influential formulations have been, constituted by responsibilities, so that the right is parasitic on some account of what responsibilities we have. Such rights, which Waldron calls “responsibility-rights,” are structured in the following way: an important task is assigned to some actor, who then is deemed to be entitled to make decisions about the way in which that task is carried out.

Free speech is a responsibility-right in some of its most influential formulations. In John Milton and John Stuart Mill, for example, the regime of free speech that they advocate aims at the development of certain virtues of character. We have an obligation to develop our minds and characters by encountering all sorts of ideas, including evil and destructive ones. The goal is also a collective one, to create a society of citizens who interact on terms of mutual respect. This may entail limits on what is tolerable. Understanding free speech as a responsibility-right thus opens the possibility of hate speech regulation, as Waldron has argued. It also, however, can generate reasons for resisting such regulations.

Keywords: Jeremy Waldron, free speech

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Koppelman, Andrew M., Waldron, Responsibility-Rights, and Hate Speech (2011). 43 Arizona State Law Journal 1201 (2011), Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 15-40, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2634180

Andrew M. Koppelman (Contact Author)

Northwestern University School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States
312-503-8431 (Phone)

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