University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : Centre for Open Learning : Social and Political Science

Undergraduate Course: Free Speech (LLLJ07009)

Course Outline
SchoolCentre for Open Learning CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryThis course is not available to University of Edinburgh matriculated students. This is a for-credit course offered by the Office of Lifelong Learning (OLL); only students registered with OLL should be enrolled.
This course aims to introduce students to the philosophical debates concerning free speech in contemporary societies. The course topics will include, among others, free speech and blasphemy, free speech, censorship and the arts, and free speech and the Internet.
Course description 1. Introduction. This class will introduce the main themes examined throughout the course. We will also contextualise the idea of free speech within the broader debates concerning the concept of freedom.
2. Theorising free speech. In this class we will explore some of the main arguments in defence of free speech as well as justifications for imposing limits upon it. We will especially focus on the works of John Stuart Mill and Joel Feinberg.
3. Free speech and blasphemy. This class will explore the tension between free speech and offence against religious faiths. We will especially focus on the Satanic Verses controversy and the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy.
4. Free speech and hate speech. In this class we will examine the issues raised by hate speech, including incitement to religious hatred and political hate speech.
5. Free speech and pornography. This class will focus on the arguments raised especially (but not only) by feminist thinkers against pornography. We will also discuss whether pornography can be considered a form of speech or not.
6. Free speech, art and censorship. Artistic expression (e.g. literature, theatre, painting etc.) has often been object of state censorship. In this class we will examine whether the peculiar nature of artistic expression warrants fewer restrictions to free speech than other forms of expression.
7. Free speech and copyright. Copyright infringers are normally denied freedom of speech. In this class, we will assess whether there are sound arguments for this.
8. Free speech and privacy. This class will explore the tension between free speech and individual privacy, focusing on issues such as defamation and the publication of confidential information.
9. Free speech and the media. In this class we will examine the relevance of free speech in relation to press, broadcasting and commercial advertising.
10. Free speech and the Internet. The advent of the Internet has introduced novel themes in discussions about free speech, such as anonymity, lack of quality control and the presence of potentially very large audiences. This class will examine these and other related issues.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
By the end of this course, students should be able to:
Demonstrate an understanding of the main philosophical and political issues surrounding free speech;
Critically read and analyse key modern and contemporary texts concerning free speech;
Illustrate and evaluate the development of the main arguments for and against free speech;
Apply ideas and concepts to the analysis of real-world case-studies.
Reading List
Barendt, E. M., 2005. Freedom of Speech. 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Mill, J. S., 2006. On Liberty and the Subjection of Women. London: Penguin Books.
van Mill, D. 2008. Freedom of Speech, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, [online] Available at:
Appignanesi, L. ed., 2005. Free Expression is No Offence. London: Penguin Books.
Feinberg, J., 1984. Harm to Others: The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Feinberg, J., 1985. Offense to Others: The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Warburton, N., 2009. Free Speech: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Web sources (forum devoted to the issues of free speech and free press)., Center for Democracy and Technology (a website concerned with the relationship between free speech and the internet).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Analytical skills; comparative analysis; critical reading of complex texts; participation in group discussions; grounding in legal, moral, philosophical and political issues surrounding free speech.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserMr James Mooney
Tel: (0131 6)50 3077
Course secretaryMs Marie Craft
Tel: (0131 6)50 3943
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information