Wintersession 2018

Freedom of Speech & Its Limits

January 22-25, 2018, 9 AM - 3.00 PM, Founders 120

Wintersession 2018 will focus on freedom of speech and its limits, and will present prominent lecturers from both within Wellesley College and other academic institutions. The program is as follows:



9 AM: “The History of Free Speech in America,” by Prof Thomas Healey

Although the First Amendment was ratified as part of the Bill of Rights in 1791, it took more than a hundred and thirty years for the courts to begin taking free speech seriously. In this lecture, Professor Healy will examine the historical evolution of free speech in the United States and identify the key principles that have emerged from that evolution.


1 PM: "Freedom of Expression in The Muslim World and The West,” by Dr. Serdar Kaya

Should governments impose limits to the freedom of speech? If so, what are the justifications for these limits? Where should we draw the lines? This lecture will revolve around these questions. It will discuss the trade-offs between hate speech and free speech. The Danish cartoons crisis and the Charlie Hebdo incident will be the main cases under review. The primary focus will be on the Islamic world, and frequent comparisons drawn from the United States and Canada will help assess the current policy trends and their applications.




9 AM: “Is More Speech the Right Response to Harmful Speech?,” by Prof. Mary Kate McGowan

A widespread view in the free speech literature is that the proper response to harmful speech is more speech.  The idea is that rather than regulate the harmful speech, we ought to remedy the harms of the harmful speech with further speech. This has come to be known as the “more speech” response.  This lecture will investigate this response.  Dr. McGowan will clarify which sort of “more speech" response concerns her, and will argue, using work in the philosophy of language and the kinematics of conversation, that things are considerably more complex than the “more speech response” appears to assume.    


1 PM: “History, Censorship, and the Politics of Memory,” by Dr. Liza Oliver

This seminar will examine how the censorship and revisionism of history serve as powerful tools in defining collective national memory. It will consider memory laws in France related to colonialism, Hindu nationalist historical revisionism in India, and Lost Cause censorship in America's post-Civil War era to explore comparatively the relationship between historical narrative and contemporary politics.




9 AM: “Don’t Drink the Hemlock: The Trial of Socrates, Freedom of Speech, and Democracy in Historical Perspective,” by Prof. Guy M. Rogers

In 399 BCE the Athenian democracy charged the philosopher Socrates with impiety and corrupting the youth of Athens. Socrates was found guilty by a jury of 501 Athenians and was forced to drink hemlock. Many scholars have argued that the charges against Socrates were politically motivated and have understood his trial and conviction as an attack upon freedom of speech and an indictment of democracy. Were the charges against Socrates politically motivated? Was the trial and execution of Socrates really a case about freedom of speech? In this presentation Prof. Rogers first will try to contextualize the trial and then explain how it fits into contemporary discussions about freedom of expression.


1 PM: "When Speech Turns Criminal: Incitement on Trial," Prof. Richard Wilson

International and national armed conflicts are usually preceded by a media campaign in which public figures foment ethnic, national, racial or religious hatred, and incite listeners to acts of violence. This lecture evaluates the efforts of international criminal tribunals to hold inciters criminally responsible and explains why this has proved so difficult.




Discussions and debates.



All sessions and meals will take place in FND. Breakfast will be served at 8.30, and lunch will be served at 11.30.

If you have any questions, you should email or Caryn Sowa (