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Human Rights and Human Well-Being$
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William Talbott

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195173482

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195173482.001.0001

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The Millian Epistemological Argument for Autonomy Rights

The Millian Epistemological Argument for Autonomy Rights

Chapter:
(p.172) EIGHT The Millian Epistemological Argument for Autonomy Rights
Source:
Human Rights and Human Well-Being
Author(s):

William J. Talbott (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195173482.003.0008

This chapter applies the Millian epistemology to ground a robust, inalienable right to freedom of expression and to ground the other autonomy rights, as necessary for the process of the social process of the free give-and-take of opinion. The chapter considers a variety of exceptions to freedom of expression, including product advertising and political advertising. He uses the examples of Google and Wikipedia to provide empirical confirmation for Mill’s claims about the social process of the free give-and-take of opinion. He also shows how the Millian case for freedom of propositional expression can be extended to cover nonpropositional expression in art and literature. The chapter shows that the Millian argument does not limit freedom of expression to reasonable views. The chapter argues that the distinction between reasonable and unreasonable comprehensive views, which plays a large role in Rawls’s theory and in contemporary discussions of human rights, cannot support the weight that it is intended to bear. This leads to an extended discussion of intolerant subversive advocacy, in which the chapter argues that neither Habermas’s nor Rawls’s theory can explain why the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Smith Act (which made membership in the Communist Party illegal) in Dennis v. U.S. was erroneous. The chapter also explains why Mill’s social process epistemology does not undermine his political philosophy. The author concludes by explaining why the main principle would endorse a human right to freedom of expression.

Keywords:   autonomy rights, consequentialism, epistemic modesty, fallibilism, freedom of expression, Google, Jürgen Habermas, main principle, overlapping consensus, political advertising, product advertising, John Rawls, reasonable disagreement, relativism, Wikipedia

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