Dignity, Harm, and Hate Speech

Abstract

This paper examines two recent contributions to the hate speech literature – by Steven Heyman and Jeremy Waldron – which seek a justification for the legal restriction of hate speech in an account of the way that hate speech infringes against people’s dignity. These analyses look beyond the first-order hurts and disadvantages suffered by the immediate targets of hate speech, and consider the prospect of hate speech sustaining complex social structures whose wide-scale operations lower the social status of members of targeted groups. In Heyman’s and Waldron’s accounts we find plausible insights into the nature of identity-based social hierarchies, and the harms that redound to subordinated people under the operations of such hierarchies. I argue, however, that both analyses are unsuccessful as justifications for the restriction of hate speech, because they do not ultimately provide reason to think that hate speech is responsible for creating or sustaining identity-based social hierarchies.

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Correspondence to Robert Mark Simpson.

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Simpson, R.M. Dignity, Harm, and Hate Speech. Law and Philos 32, 701–728 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10982-012-9164-z

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Keywords

  • Legal Restriction
  • Free Speech
  • Public Order
  • Hate Speech
  • Civic Status