Still a work in progress, but this is the rough plan for a new seminar I’m teaching this spring at Princeton on the subject, as part of the Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry, and Expression of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions.
One focus for the course concerns the connection between free inquiry and knowledge–what knowledge’s value is, how it is gained, and how it is produced. More broadly, I’d like to explore in this course the goods that freedom of speech and inquiry are for, to borrow a line from John Garvey.
Suggestions most welcome.
Department of Politics
POL 494: Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Inquiry
Instructor. Marc O. DeGirolami
Description. American law vigorously protects free speech. Free speech lies at the core of our politics and culture. But many argue for greater government regulation of speech, particularly for “hate speech” and other speech deemed “offensive.” Social media and speech at universities present additional challenges, some of which have involved Princeton itself. And what about “cancel culture” and other social controls on speech? Are these healthy limits or stifling constraints? This course explores the historic and philosophical justifications for protecting speech, focusing on the freedom of inquiry—the freedom to ask questions in pursuit of knowledge and truth. It also introduces students to the constitutional law of free speech. It asks students to think about speech’s value in historical perspective and today.
The course is sponsored by the James Madison Program’s Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry, and Expression, and by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.
Freedom of Thought, Expression, and Discussion. As set forth in Rights, Rules, Responsibilities section 1.1.3, Princeton University strictly respects the right to free speech of everyone in our community of scholars and learners. That right is sacrosanct in this class and is possessed by faculty and students alike. With the aim of advancing and deepening everyone’s understanding of the issues addressed in the course, students are urged to speak their minds, explore ideas and arguments, play devil’s advocate, and engage in civil but robust discussions. There is no thought or language policing. We expect students to do business in the proper currency of intellectual discourse—a currency consisting of reasons, evidence, and arguments—but no ideas or positions are out of bounds.
Readings. All readings are posted to the Canvas page with the following exceptions. Please purchase a copy of the following:
- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (Dover Thrift Edition 2002)
- Keith Whittington, Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech (2018)
Grading. The grading breakdown for the course is as follows: mid-term paper 30%; final paper 50%; class participation 20%.
Late Penalty. Due dates are strictly enforced. Papers received with a time stamp after 5 pm but before midnight on the date on which they are due will be penalized a half letter grade. Papers will be penalized another half letter grade if they are received by 5 pm the subsequent day and another half letter grade the day after that.
SCHEDULE OF COURSE MEETINGS AND ASSIGNMENTS
Assignments are tentative and subject to revision as the course proceeds
Week 1, Thursday, February 2: Introduction to the Course, the Constitution of the United States, and the First Amendment Freedoms
U.S. Constitution (all)
Geoffrey Stone, “The Story of the Sedition Act of 1798: ‘The Reign of Witches,’” in First Amendment Stories (Garnett & Koppelman, eds. 2012)
Jud Campbell, “Natural Rights and the First Amendment,” Yale Law Journal (2017) (Introduction, Part II, Part III, Part IV)
Week 2, Thursday, February 9: English Antecedents and American Foundations
Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan, Part II, Chapter XXIX (“Of those things that weaken or tend to the dissolution of a Commonwealth”) (1651)
John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration (1689)
Federalist 10 (1787)
Federalist 51 (1788)
Report on the Virginia Resolutions (1799-1800)
Judith N. Shklar, “The Liberalism of Fear,” in Judith Shklar, Political Thought and Political Thinkers (Hoffman, ed. 1998)
Week 3, Thursday, February 16: Classic Justifications and Critiques
Abrams v. United States (1919) (majority and dissent of Holmes, J.)
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty, Chapters 1, 2, 3 (1859)
James Fitzjames Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (1873) (selection)
Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance” (1965)
Robert P. George, Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality (1993) (Chapters 1 and 7)
Week 4, Thursday, February 23: Free Speech and Free Inquiry at the University, Part I—The Purpose of the University
Aristotle, Politics, Book 7.13; Book 8
Zena Hitz, Lost in Thought: The Hidden Pleasures of the Intellectual Life (2020) (Introduction, Chapter 3)
Alasdair MacIntyre, “The Very Idea of a University: Aristotle, Newman, and Us,” British Journal of Educational Studies (2009)
Anthony Abraham Jack, The Privileged Elite: How Elite Colleges are Failing Underprivileged Students (2019) (Introduction)
Jonathan Haidt, “When Truth and Social Justice Collide, Choose Truth,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2022).
Week 5, Thursday, March 2: Free Speech and Free Inquiry at the University, Part II—Free Speech, Academic Freedom, and Cancel Culture
Keith Whittington, Speak Freely: Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech (2018) (selection)
Patrick Deneen, “Against Academic Freedom,” Irish Rover (2022)
Naomi Oreskes & Charlie Tyson, “Is Academe Awash in Liberal Bias?” Chronicle of Higher Education (2020) & Phillip W. Magness, “Tenured Radicals Are Real,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2020)
Justin McBrayer, “Diversity Statements are the New Faith Statements,” Inside Higher Education (2022)
Brian Soucek, “How to Protect Diversity Statements from Legal Peril,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2022)
Brian Leiter, “Diversity Statements are Still in Legal Peril,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2022)
Clifford Ando, “Princeton Betrays Its Principles,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2022)
Sarah Brown, “‘Public-University Curricula are Government Speech,’ Florida Says,” Chronicle of Higher Education (2022)
Katha Pollitt, “Cancel Culture Exists,” The Nation (2022)
Week 6, Thursday, March 9: Free Speech Skepticism
Gerhart Niemeyer, “A Reappraisal of the Doctrine of Free Speech,” Thought: Fordham University Quarterly (1950)
Jamal Greene, How Rights Went Wrong (2021) (selection)
Anthony Leaker, “Against ‘Free Speech,’” Cato Unbound (2019)
Note, “Blasphemy and the Original Meaning of the First Amendment,” Harvard Law Review (2021)
Marc O. DeGirolami, “The Sickness Unto Death of the First Amendment,” Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (2019) (selection)
Richard George Wright, “Free Speech as a Cultural Holdover,” Pace Law Review (2019)
MIDTERM PAPERS DUE FRIDAY, MARCH 10, BY 5:00 PM
Week 7, Thursday, March 23: The Content-Based//Content-Neutral Framework, Expressive Conduct
United States v. O’Brien (1968)
Texas v. Johnson (1989)
Frisby v. Schultz (1988)
Renton v. Playtime Theaters (1986)
Week 8, Thursday, March 30: Categorical Exceptions to the Freedom of Speech
Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942) (fighting words)
Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) (incitement to violence)
Miller v. California (1973) (obscenity)
United States v. Alvarez (2012) (false statements of fact)
Week 9, Thursday, April 6: Offensive Speech, Hate Speech
Cohen v. California (1971)
Snyder v. Phelps (2011)
Matal v. Tam (2017)
Richard Delgado, “Words That Wound: A Tort Action for Racial Insults, Epithets, and Name Calling,” Harvard Civil Rights Civil Liberties Law Review (1982)
Jeremy Waldron, The Harm in Hate Speech (2012) (selection)
Steven D. Smith, “Liberalism and Hate Speech,” Law and Religion Forum (2022)
Week 10, Thursday, April 13: Compelled Speech and Association
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943)
Wooley v. Maynard (1977)
Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 (2018)
303 Creative LLC v. Elenis (2022) [listen to LegalSpirits Podcast on the case]
Week 11, Thursday, April 20: Government as Subsidizer and Employee Speech
Rust v. Sullivan (1991)
Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010)
Pickering v. Board of Education (1968)
Garcetti v. Ceballos (2006)
Week 12, Thursday, April 27: Issues in Social Media Speech and Regulation
Packingham v. North Carolina (2017)
Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute (2021) (Thomas, J., concurring)
Lee C. Bollinger & Geoffrey R. Stone, eds., Social Media, Freedom of Speech, and the Future of our Democracy (2022) (selection)
Adam J. White, “Google.gov,” The New Atlantis (2018)
Kate Klonick, “The Terrifying Power of Internet Censors,” N.Y. Times (2017)
Ken Klippenstein, Lee Fang, “Truth Cops: Leaked Documents Demonstrate DHS’s Plans to Police Disinformation,” The Intercept (2022)
Thomas Fazi, “The Human Cost of Twitter’s Censorship,” Compact (2022)
FINAL PAPERS DUE FRIDAY, MAY 18, BY 5:00 PM
3 thoughts on “Syllabus for my course on Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Inquiry”
The best repository of lucid Natural Law thinking, found by me after 30 years, turns out to be Lincoln’s statements on Slavery. They are unanswerable if correctly understood.
The syllabus is good but it needs a focus on a very serious subject by a very serious thinker , to bring home that founding principle: All men are created equal
Free speech is a misnomer; it seems to always have a cost. Free speech will be divisive as long as we hold the view that knowledge is power. Power is the ability to influence mass concepts of right and wrong.
Perhaps we need an alternate way of “seeing” equality that complements our thinking about it.