John Stuart Mill and Political Correctness
University of Louisville Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 1, 2017
SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 364
36 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2017 Last revised: 4 Mar 2018
Date Written: 2017
This article will examine Mill’s arguments in favor of unrestrained freedom of speech and his objection to the social censorship of speech. It will then discuss the origins and impact of what is now characterized as political correctness. The article will then define the concept of social censorship and attempt to distinguish pure social censorship from private tangible punishment of speech. Next, the article will examine the ways in which social censorship serves important social goals and promotes free speech as well as the ways in which it undermines free speech. It will especially focus on the damage to intellectual autonomy and development that so troubled Mill. The article will consider how the struggle between freedom of speech and social censorship/political correctness is ultimately a battle over the social norm defining the boundary between socially acceptable and unacceptable speech focusing on how social norms, especially in the area of speech, are created, maintained and adjusted. Finally, the article will explain how Mill’s norm of a robust culture of free speech can be defended and preserved against attempts at restriction.
Keywords: John Stuart Mill, freedom of speech, free speech, First Amendment, social intolerance, censorship, social censorship, political correctness
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