My Wellesley

Civility, Self-Censorship, and the Freedom of Expression

January 24, 2020

Norms of civility restrict what one can say and when one can say it. Put differently, being civil requires a measure of self-censorship. So understood, perhaps recent claims that civility is no requirement of morality (or that only a very thin form of civility is so required) are good news for free expression. Unfortunately, these skeptical arguments against civility are subject to stiff empirical challenges. Messina argues that some measure of self-censorship is morally required, but that this is compatible with the ideals of free expression and the good life.

Dr. J.P. Messina
Dr. J.P. Messina
Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of New Orleans

J.P. Messina is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of New Orleans, with a joint appointment as the Assistant Director of The Urban Entrepreneurship and Policy Institute. Previously, he was a post-doctoral researcher at the Freedom Project at Wellesley College. His work focuses on foundational issues in political philosophy, including theories of property, economic justice, and political legitimacy (sometimes from a historical perspective). He is currently working on a book on the ethics and politics of private censorship, which examines the degree to which private parties can interfere with the basic right to freedom of expression. His dissertation (Political Obligations and Provisional Rights: A Study in Kant's Politics of Freedom), completed at UC San Diego, was awarded the Chancellor's Dissertation medal, and he has been the recipient of several grants and prizes (including a Frontiers for Innovation Scholarship and a research fellowship with the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). His work has appeared in several peer-reviewed journals, including Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, Philosophers' Imprint, Kantian Review, Canadian Journal of Philosophy, and elsewhere.