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The Philosophical Journey: An Interactive Approach

Hate Speech and Drug Legalization

In his famous essay, "On Liberty," J. S. Mill argues for what might now be called a libertarian agenda. People should be free from government pressure or coercion in all cases except where their actions pose a direct harm to others. Mill also argued forcefully for freedom of speech. He believed that citizens needed to be free to express any and all opinions in a public forum. Only by allowing the free exchange of ideas could we ensure our ability to move toward the truth. Likewise, false ideas are best exposed by their public presentation. The Web links below focus on two contemporary issues where Mill's ideas are being debated. In each case, explore the issues and see what you think. Think carefully about how we should define the concept, "harm." 

Many people today argue that the government should end its War on Drugs. Among the many reasons offered for this position is a very basic argument closely tied to Mill's philosophy. What business does the government have in telling a private citizen what she can or can’t do in the privacy of her own home; including the use of drugs? Certainly if this person endangers other people by their drug use by driving a car or becoming violent, then the government has the duty to suppress her freedom, but many, if not most, drug offenders are non-violent. What sense of "harm" should apply here? 

Drug Legalization - Civil Liberties - Net Links

Drug Legalization, Criminalization, and Harm Reduction

Speaking Out Against Drug Legalization 

What constitutes Hate Speech? When should a person's freedom to express their beliefs be limited? One extreme mentioned by Mill is when someone uses speech to endanger the lives of other people; shouting "fire" in a crowded theater for instance. Is this threat of physical harm the proper standard?

Internet Hate Groups: Freedom and Hate Speech

Internet Resources on Hate Speech

Hate Speech: A dialog

Cyberhate and the First Amendment


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