European Journal of Political Theory 14 (2):180-208 (2015)

Matteo Bonotti
Monash University
In this paper, I critically assess John Rawls' repeated claim that the duty of civility is only a moral duty and should not be enforced by law. In the first part of the paper, I examine and reject the view that Rawls' position may be due to the practical difficulties that the legal enforcement of the duty of civility might entail. I thus claim that Rawls' position must be driven by deeper normative reasons grounded in a conception of free speech. In the second part of the paper, I therefore examine various arguments for free speech and critically assess whether they are consistent with Rawls' political liberalism. I first focus on the arguments from truth and self-fulfilment. Both arguments, I argue, rely on comprehensive doctrines and therefore cannot provide a freestanding political justification for free speech. Freedom of speech, I claim, can be justified instead on the basis of Rawls' political conception of the person and of the two moral powers. However, Rawls' wide view of public reason already allows scope for the kind of free speech necessary for the exercise of the two moral powers and therefore cannot explain Rawls' opposition to the legal enforcement of the duty of civility. Such opposition, I claim, can only be explained on the basis of a defence of unconstrained freedom of speech grounded in the ideas of democracy and political legitimacy. Yet, I conclude, while public reason and the duty of civility are essential to political liberalism, unconstrained freedom of speech is not. Rawls and political liberals could therefore renounce unconstrained freedom of speech, and endorse the legal enforcement of the duty of civility, while remaining faithful to political liberalism
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1177/1474885114538257
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 69,979
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Conspiracy Theories and Reasonable Pluralism.Matej Cíbik & Pavol Hardoš - 2020 - European Journal of Political Theory 21 (3):147488511989923.
Kant and Rawls on Free Speech in Autocracies.Peter Niesen - 2018 - Kantian Review 23 (4):615-640.
Conspiracy Theories and Reasonable Pluralism.Matej Cíbik & Pavol Hardoš - 2020 - European Journal of Political Theory 21 (3):445-465.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Civility as Political Constraint.William A. Edmundson - 2002 - Res Publica 8 (3):217-229.
Legitimacy and Consensus in Rawls' Political Liberalism.Enzo Rossi - 2014 - Iride: Filosofia e Discussione Pubblica 27:37-56.
What is Free Speech?David Braddon-Mitchell & Caroline West - 2004 - Journal of Political Philosophy 12 (4):437-460.
The Free Speech Argument Against Pornography.Caroline West - 2003 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 33 (3):391 - 422.
Sincerity and Reconciliation in Public Reason.Richard M. Buck - 2001 - Social Philosophy Today 17:21-35.


Added to PP index

Total views
70 ( #163,997 of 2,504,877 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #277,627 of 2,504,877 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes