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David Brax

Hate speech and the distribution of the costs and benefits of freedom of speech.

Freedom of expression is of obvious value, and the extent to which a society protects it is a reflection of its democratic development. Freedom of speech may protect behaviour that it is morally wrong for an agent to engage in. The freedom to do wrong and the benefits freedom brings would then outweigh the benefits of legislating against such wrongs.
Hate speech laws perfectly illustrate such negotiations. If thus guided, speech regulation can be justified by appeal to detrimental effects. I will examine two consequentialist arguments in favour of hate speech laws. 1) Hate speech has a “chilling” effect on victimized groups, with a detrimental effect on a free and open debate. 2) The costs and benefits are unfairly distributed. According to prioritarianism, more weight should be given to costs for those worst off. Since hate speech typically targets already marginalized groups, prioritarian concerns may favour legislating against it.


David Brax received his PhD at Lund University in 2009, and is now a post doc at CERGU (Center for European Research, the University of Gothenburg). He was a researcher in the cross-national and cross-disciplinary EU research project “When law and hate collide” 2011-2013. His current project concerns Hate Crimes in Europe. He is a member of the advisory board for the International Network for Hate Studies. His main research areas include philosophy of law, moral psychology and meta-ethics.

Recent publications:
Brax, David (2014) Hatbrottslagstiftning i Sverige och i Europa (2014) i “Förhoppningar och Farhågor: Sveriges första 20 år i EU” (Eds L. Berg och R. Lindahl)

Brax, David and Munthe, Christian “The Philosophical Aspects of Hate Crime and Hate Crime Legislation: Introducing the Special Symposium on the Philosophy of Hate Crime” (2015) Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 30 (10) s 1687-1695

Brax, David. Comment on the Charleston Massacre at “The Daily Nous” 22/7 2015 http://dailynous.com/2015/06/22/philosophers-on-the-charleston-massacre/

Sidansvarig: Christine Forssell|Sidan uppdaterades: 2015-08-12

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