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Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) Paperback – April 15, 2009

ISBN-13: 000-0199232350 ISBN-10: 0199232350

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Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) + Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment
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Product Details

  • Series: Very Short Introductions
  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (April 15, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199232350
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199232352
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 0.5 x 4.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,245 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"A very careful and efficient inspection of this area by discussing the central arguments as they are related to the idea of free speech while examining the need for limitations... The title will be great for students who have been newly introduced to the idea of free speech and need a to the point look at free speech without feeling overwhelmed by mounds of legal jargon... very well written and easy to read beginning to the topic of free speech. The organization of the book provided a straightforward discussion that readers could follow effortlessly... I found Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction to provide exactly what the title series set out to accomplish by introducing the free speech in a brief and easy to read format."--AALL Spectrum


About the Author


Nigel Warburton is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University. He is the author of the bestselling Philosophy: The Basics.

More About the Author

Nigel Warburton (1962 - ). Nigel Warburton is a senior lecturer at the Open University and bestselling author of several popular introductory Philosophy books including Philosophy: The Basics, Thinking from A to Z, Philosophy: The Classics, Philosophy: Basic Readings, Freedom: An Introduction with Readings, and The Art Question. He is an Honorary Associate Research Fellow of the Institute of Philosophy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He can be found blogging, podcasting and twittering via his popular philosophy blog, Virtual Philosopher.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Freedom of speech is considered one of the most fundamental human freedoms, especially in modern liberal democracies. It has become de facto THE litmus test of overall freedom that citizens of any society enjoy. And yet, the notion that we should have this freedom is relatively recent. The modern understanding of this freedom can more or less be traced to John Stewart Mill's "On Liberty," although there have been acknowledgements of the importance of freedom of speech that precede that work.

This very short introduction covers some of those historical developments, but most of the book is dedicated to the contemporary controversies that surround various interpretations and limitations of the freedom of speech. In particular, the book deals with the famous quote of Oliver Wendell Holmes that freedom of speech does not entail falsely shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre and similar instances where speech can lead to physical or psychological harm. The book gives other examples of where our abstract notions of freedom of speech may collide with reality. The author is very good at appreciating the fact that the real world is very different from an academic discussion seminar, and many practical considerations oftentimes need to be taken into the account when deciding what should and should not be protected as free speech.

I find this book to be operating from a slight (perhaps unconscious) bias in its treatment of blasphemy and pornography. It seems to imply that religious and anti-religious "speech" (however one defines it) is really not categorically different from other forms of speech and ideas, while on the other hand the author is willing to concede that there is something categorically different when it comes to pornography.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Another fine addition to the series, with up-to-date examples put in historical context. Easy to read proof that total freedom of speech does not exist. There are always limits.
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By T. J. Reilly on February 21, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For a subject that elicits volumes of discussion in the law and general media, this short overview is a nice summary of some key principles in the area.
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By Sara Sturdevant on July 20, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Insightful and balanced.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on November 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
Warburton writes, "John Stuart Mill was explicit that incitement to violence was the point at which intervention to curb free speech was appropriate. Mere offensiveness wasn't sufficient grounds for intervention and should not be prevented by law, by threats, or by social pressure." "A spirit of toleration should not include a prohibition on causing offence." Times columnist Oliver Kamm agreed, "Free speech does indeed cause hurt - but there is nothing wrong in this."

As US Justice Brennan said in Texas v. Johnson, which upheld the right of dissenters to burn the US flag as a protest, "If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."

Virtually anything can be seen as offensive, and something that is both true and important is bound to offend somebody.

But in Britain today, it seems that we have the right to have free speech, as long as we don't use it. So members of the English Defence League are arrested and the group Muslims against Crusades is disbanded for saying things that some find offensive. But it is legitimate, if unjust and idiotic, to call for Sharia law here, and it is also legitimate, and just, to oppose Sharia law.

This government is trying to suppress dissent. It is expanding its police powers to control and limit expression, narrowing our rights of democratic participation.

The meanings of symbols like the poppy are in the realm of opinion and argument, so the state must not impose a politically correct interpretation on us.
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