Res Publica

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 91-106

First online:


  • John HortonAffiliated withSchool of Politics, International Relations and Philosophy, Keele University Email author 

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This article seeks to explore the conceptual structure and moral standing of an idea that has received almost no attention from analytical philosophers: self-censorship. It is argued that at the heart of the concept is a tension between the thoughts of the self-censor as, on the one hand, the author, and on the other, the instrument, of the censorship. Which of these aspects is emphasised also importantly helps shape how self-censorship is viewed normatively. Focusing on authorship tends to lead to seeing self-censorship as more akin to a freely chosen act of self-restraint, while focusing on the self-censor as instrument presents it as one specific form of ordinary censorship. It is the tension between these two aspects that accounts for the moral ambivalence that is often felt towards the practice of self-censorship.


Authorship Autonomy Censorship Freedom of expression Self-censorship