How free should free speech be?

13 July 2009

How free should free speech be? The University of Sydney is bringing three of the world's leading political philosophers to Sydney this week to address this fundamental question at a symposium hosted by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry.

"Debates over free speech tend to be dominated by legal and constitutional experts", says Professor Duncan Ivison, convenor of the symposium and Head of SOPHI, "whereas we thought it was important to tackle some of the fundamental philosophical questions at the heart of the debate."

Jeremy Waldron, University Professor at New York University and one of the world's leading legal and political philosophers, will be asking what a 'well-ordered society' should look like. For example, when is it appropriate to forbid displays of contempt or hatred? What are the fundamental bases of civic respect?

Simone Chambers, a leading expert on democratic theory from the University of Toronto, will be investigating the idea of 'civility' more generally. Does the demand for civility in politics risk undermining freedom of expression? Do certain issues - such as race - require special rules for public discussion?

Other participants include Philip Pettit, Laurance S. Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton University, one of the leading writers on ideas of freedom today, and Helen Irving, from the University's Law School, a noted expert on the Australian constitution.

In addition to the symposium on Wednesday afternoon, the international visitors will be holding workshops and master classes with postgraduate students and staff from around the Sydney region during the week.

"We are very lucky that Professors John and Chris Furedy, alumni of the University who have a passion for the role of philosophy in public life - and especially the principle of freedom of speech - have chosen to help us mount this program of events", said Professor Ivison. "It is a wonderful testament to their support for the University and its fundamental mission."

What: How Free should Free Speech be? Philosophical Perspectives: A Public Symposium

When: 1:00pm to 5:00pm, Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Where: Refectory, Quadrangle Building, The University of Sydney

More details about the symposium are available on the SOPHI website.

Contact: Media Office

Phone: 02 9351 2261