This page features a collection of the best resources on free speech. Just to be clear, there is no single best resource on free speech. The best one will depend on your preferred learning style and the amount of time you want to spend learning about it.
To get started, simply choose one of the links below:
If you want a comprehensive overview of the idea of free speech:
- Read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Freedom of Speech. However, you should keep in mind that the Stanford Encyclopedia in often quite technical and this article may be difficult for beginners. It’s also quite long at around 11,000 words. Here’s a short excerpt that introduces the idea of free speech:
“The topic of free speech is one of the most contentious issues in liberal societies. If liberty of expression is not highly valued, as has often been the case, there is no problem; freedom of expression is simply curtailed in favor of other values. It becomes a volatile issue when it is highly valued because only then do the limitations placed upon it become controversial. The first thing to note in any sensible discussion of freedom of speech is that it will have to be limited. Every society places some limits on the exercise of speech because it always takes place within a context of competing values. In this sense, Stanley Fish is correct when he says that there is no such thing as free speech (in the sense of unlimited speech). Free speech is simply a useful term to focus our attention on a particular form of human interaction and the phrase is not meant to suggest that speech should never be limited. One does not have to fully agree with Fish when he says , “free speech in short, is not an independent value but a political prize” (1994,102) but it is the case that no society has existed where speech has not been limited to some extent. Haworth (1998) makes a similar point when he suggests that a right to freedom of speech is not something we have, not something we own, in the same way as we possess arms and legs. . . .”
If you’re looking for a somewhat shorter and and more engaging introduction:
If you’d prefer a video introduction:
If you prefer audio and podcasts:
If you’d like to read a short passage from a classic work of philosophy:
- Read The Harm of Silencing Minority Opinions: A short reading from ‘On Liberty’ by John Stuart Mill [2200 words]
If you’d like to learn more about philosophy, check out this collection of Resources and Reading Lists.