This book offers a holistic account of the problems posed by freedom of expression in our current times and offers corrective measures to allow for a more genuine exchange of ideas within the global society.
The topic of free speech is rarely addressed from a historical, philosophical, or theological perspective. In The Collapse of Freedom of Expression, Jordi Pujol explores both the modern concept of the freedom of expression based on the European Enlightenment and the deficiencies inherent in this framework. Modernity has disregarded the traditional roots of the freedom of expression drawn from Christianity, Greek philosophy, and Roman law, which has left the door open to the various forms of abuse, censorship, and restrictions seen in contemporary public discourse. Pujol proposes that we rebuild the foundations of the freedom of expression by returning to older traditions and incorporating both the field of pragmatics of language and theological and ethical concepts on human intentionality as new, complementary disciplines.
Pujol examines emblematic cases such as Charlie Hebdo, free speech on campus, and online content moderation to elaborate on the tensions that arise within the modern concept of freedom of expression. The book explores the main criticisms of the contemporary liberal tradition by communitarians, libertarians, feminists, and critical race theorists, and analyzes the gaps and contradictions within these traditions. Pujol ultimately offers a reconstruction project that involves bridging the chasm between the secular and the sacred and recognizing that religion is a font of meaning for millions of people, and as such has an inescapable place in the construction of a pluralist public sphere.
Foreword by John D. Peters, Yale University
Part I – Freedom of Expression under Threat: Emblematic Cases
1. I am not Charlie Hebdo. Defending Freedom of Expression but Not Its Content
2. The Paradox of Freedom of Expression on Campus
3. The Threat of Religious Fanaticism: Jyllands Posten and the Regensburg Address
4. The Rise of a New Orthodoxy: The Intolerance of Secular Relativism
5. Facebook’s Content Moderation Rule: Private Censorship of Public Discourse
PART II – The Liberal Tradition of Freedom of Expression and Its Contradictions
6. The Sustainability of the Liberal Rationale: Main Critiques
7. A Fabricated Notion of Tolerance
8. The Epistemological Shortfall: A Homogenous Concept of Discourse
9. The Anthropological Shortfall: Modernity’s Idea of Mankind
10. The Neutrality of the Public Space: A Useful Fiction
PART III – Historical and Philosophical Development of Freedom of Expression
11. The Origins of Freedom of Expression
12. Old-School and New-School Censorship
13. The Classical Tradition of the Founding Fathers of The United States
14. The Contemporary Tradition in the United States: Holmes and Harvard
15. The European Tradition: Hate Speech Laws
PART IV – Reconstructing the Foundations of Freedom of Expression
16. Reframing Freedom of Expression as a Human Good
17. Reconsidering the Legal Grounds
18. Reshaping the Harm Principle. Pragmatics of Language and Natural Ethics
19. Repairing the Relationship Between Secular and Sacred
20. Revisiting the Limits of Freedom of Expression
Jordi Pujol is an associate professor of media ethics and media law at the School of Church Communications in the Pontifical University of Santa Croce in Rome.
John Durham Peters is the Maria Rosa Menocal Professor of English and of Film and Media Studies at Yale University.
“Freedom of speech is under siege today. Unless we relearn its foundations, there is a serious risk that we will lose it. Jordi Pujol reminds us of these foundations and their crucial role in rehabilitating free speech in an age of official and unofficial censorship.” —Samuel Gregg, author of Reason, Faith, and the Struggle for Western Civilization
“Firmly rooted in venerable, even ancient, schools of philosophical and moral thought, The Collapse of Freedom of Expression looks to the future without nostalgia for what is irrevocably in the past. Jordi Pujol is fully open to the unprecedented newness of the historical and social context in which we find ourselves but remains confident that addressing these developments requires a renewal of foundational questions and principles. His book is well worth the attention of all of us who care about the past and the future of freedom of expression, and about the fundamental human goods that it aims to secure." —Paolo Carozza, co-editor of The Practice of Human Development and Dignity
History is a valuable source for refining arguments and putting them into context. The recognition of human rights came from two very different revolutions that wanted to establish political freedoms, which were drawn up in constitutions. As Arendt notes, the French Revolution was more a liberation from the Old Regime, with sharp anti-clerical tones. The American Revolution, on the other hand, sought to establish freedoms and to create something new. Both traditions diverged not only philosophically but legally. French continental law was based on a broad set of complicated laws of the state that established the rules for the exercise of freedoms, trying not to avoid legal vacuums. The Anglo-American tradition, however, was based on common law and self-government by the citizens, limiting the regulatory power of the state. This has also determined its approach to freedom of expression as a negative right.
The grounding of these political freedoms is an ongoing battle. The shift from an original objective paradigm grounded in natural law to a more subjective paradigm—crafted by Harvard scholars—that is determined by social interests which change with culture and are determined by the state, has changed the way Americans think and speak about the First Amendment. This shift has deeply influenced the debate on the foundations of freedom of expression.
When looking at the source of these foundations and its problems, I have tried to look not only to the historical events like revolutions or key dates, but to the development of the history of ideas. This exercise in analyzing the source and the evolution of key notions related to freedom of expression helps us to understand further developments. In this sense, the genesis of modern individual liberty is rooted in Protestant thought. Following in the nominalist footsteps of Ockham, Luther separates freedom from its relationship with a natural order and natural ends (telos), and he distrusts the role of human practical reason, which does not discover through its operation the good to be done. Freedom becomes autonomous and subjective, and ultimately a mere choice of the will. This approach to individual freedom is a clue for understanding the journey of individual rights.
The chasms created by distrust in practical reason and the crisis of moral objectivity are filled by a framework of legal and moral positivism. On these grounds, a new authority has granted and continues to grant rights based exclusively in positive law, rejecting natural law as a foundation of rights and duties. This shift expanded the list of rights, for the sake of granting all desires, thereby becoming a champion of social freedoms. The conflicts between them were to be solved by a utilitarian calculation. I believe this functional positivist way of reasoning is incomplete and reductive. This is not a parochial argument, and it directly affects the philosophy of freedom of expression and its legal solutions. The Protestant notion of freedom in the public sphere fails to include an important nuance: the distinction between freedom and license, that is, the difference between freedom of expression and the abuse of expression. This is not a moralistic statement, but a shift in the idea of political freedoms that is rooted in Ockham and Luther.