Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Self-Expression, and Kant’s Public Use of Reason

Geert Van Eekert

About author

Prof. Geert Van Eekert
Department of Philosophy,
University of Antwerp
Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium



This article turns to early modern and Enlightenment advocates of tolerance (Locke, Spinoza, John Stuart Mill) in order to discover and lay bare the line of argument that informed their commitment to free speech. This line of argument will subsequently be used to assess the shift from free speech to the contemporary ideal of free self-expression. In order to take this assessment one step further, this article will finally turn to Immanuel Kant’s famous defense of the public use of reason. In the wake of Katerina Deligiorgi’s readings of Kant, it will show that the idea of free speech requires a specific disposition on behalf of speakers and writers that is in danger of being neglected in the contemporary prevailing conception of free speech as freedom of self-expression.

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