Autonomy and free speech

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter evaluates the relationship between autonomy and freedom of speech, examining a variety of autonomy-based justifications for the importance of speech and especially of freedom of speech. The differences between these justifications relate not only to the different conceptions of autonomy that underpin them, but also to their different responses to the problem of competing autonomy interests. It is plausible to think that the state should respect, protect, and promote the autonomy of everyone—speakers, listeners, thinkers, bystanders, and members of the public at large. Enhancing the autonomy of some might, however, require restricting the speech of others. The liberty-based conceptions of autonomy prioritize the interests of speakers and listeners and hold that the primary obligation of the state is the negative duty not to interfere with the autonomy of individual speakers and listeners. By contrast, the relational conceptions of autonomy hold that the negative liberty interests of individual speakers and hearers should be balanced against the positive duties of the state to promote the social conditions necessary for the development and exercise of autonomy by all citizens.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford handbook of freedom of speech
EditorsAdrienne Stone, Frederick Schauer
Place of PublicationOxford, UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780198827580
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • autonomy
  • freedom of speech
  • autonomy interests
  • liberty
  • relational autonomy


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