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Feinberg Reading.docx

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PHIL 348
Storrs Mc Call

Joel Feinberg. Limits to the Free Expression of Opinion What is the central question? Is the Harm Principle an adequate measure of a state’s authority to intervene in a citizen’s liberty? What is the central answer? The Harm Principle is by and large an empty formula that requires supplementation to determine the relative importance in conflicting interests. The harm principle entails a small window of freedoms that rests solely on what is good for society. What is the evidence? Mill’s conclusion was that suppressing expressions is always more harmful than the expressions themselves and thus, is never justified. Feinberg claims, however, that expressions of opinion almost always harm others and he separates discussion into analytical categories such as: defamatory, seditious, incitive to violence, malicious truth, or invasions of privacy. Mill’s response would be that if the expression cannot be subsumed under harmfulness, it cannot be sufficiently injurious to be suppressed. a) Defamation and Malicious truth. Statements that damage reputation may prompt some form of compensation. However, a popular defense would be that what was said was simply true. Suppose a prostitute decides to move and change her life. She starts a family and develops a positive reputation in her new society. However, a jealous neighbor decides to unravel her past truthfully to others. a. Feinberg claims that there are areas in which there is a greater interest in avoiding falsehood such as scientific inquiry but his larger claim is that the truth is never a complete defense. If the truth defense serves as some form of overriding public interest, then it follows the public interest in the truth overrides the personal interest in reputation, which Feinberg claims is not the case. The truth is not so valuable
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