What are philosophical reasons for approving of freedom of speech but not of freedom of deeds? If teasing the others by speech is allowed, why not by deeds? If freedom of deeds is wrong, then why approving of freedom of speech? If both can cause disasters, then why distinguish between them? To me being teased by words seems much more sever than being teased physically. The effects of the latter may recover soon, but one may not recover from the effects of the first. Is it only my opinion that freedom of speech (without any limits) is as wrong as freedom of deeds (without any limits) or have there been philosophical attempts to prove the same?

  • I would question that hearth is causing more pain than if you get punched. Is denying the holocaust or showing that mohammed-movie causing more pain than getting shot? – Lukas Sep 28 '12 at 6:32
  • @Lukas, If someone lets me choose among being verbally insulted or being punched I may choose the former, but I'm not sure I will always choose similarly especially in the case of libel and slander and malicious statements, and if libel is made against someone that I truly admire or love, like my parents, my wife, the holy persons to whom I owe my all beliefs and joy of life and etc., the situation may even get harder. That you said being verbally teased is not as painful as being shot has many evidences for not being always true. – owari Sep 28 '12 at 19:28
  • For example now, say, in Pakistan there are many who have chosen to be killed but not remain passive against the libel made against their prophet to whom they respect more than they do for any other person including their parents. Also there is an evidence from Quran about the Virgin Mary, when she conceived Jesus, the Christ, she retired with him to a remote place, there she cried in her anguish, wishing if she had already died before this, being forgotten and out of sight, as she was afraid of what she may be slandered about having a child without being married. (Quran:19:23) – owari Sep 28 '12 at 19:29
  • Anyway, note that many violent actions are just reactions to some verbal abuse and unjust, and also that many verbal conflicts are just reactions to some physical wrong actions, I mean speaking by itself is a deed so why to distinguish between this and other deeds with titles like freedom of speech (but not freedom of deeds)? If freedom of deeds can cause disaster so can cause the freedom of speech, and if freedom of speech is a human right so why not be the freedom of deeds, and etc? This is my question to be more clear. – owari Sep 28 '12 at 19:31
  • Don´t like the direction this is going. If it hurts me when someone says "spaghetti" or makes a bad movie about spaghettis, then should saying "spaghetti" be a crime? I think it should not be a crime. If muslims go nuts about some random bad movie, they have to learn to deal with it, or go nuts. – Lukas Sep 28 '12 at 22:15

There is no philosophical reasoning to approve one and not the other - and I question whether or not such schizophrenic philosophers even exist. Furthermore, both the freedom of speech and the "freedom of deeds" - even in the most liberal circles - have been generally governed by the harm principle in their seminal states. Ergo, free speech does not mean that saying anything anywhere is permitted, just how the concept of liberty or a free society doesn't mean you can go around killing people. I suggest you read John Stuart Mill's On Liberty to familiarize yourself with the concessions of Mill's staunch liberal position.

Further reading:

  • Opinion in Commonwealth v. Joseph D. Leis, Justice Jacob J. Spiegel
  • Regulating Racist Speech on Campus, Charles R. Lawrence III
  • Corry v. Stanford University, The Superior Court of California
  • Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, The Supreme Court of the United States

Note that I use the term "liberal" in the context of philosophical liberalism, and not in any political sense.

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  • +1 for introducing the concept of Harm Principle! Also offense principle was interesting to me in your cited reference. However, there should be an eligible source for defining what is wrong, offensive and harm, so that should be criminalized. – owari Sep 28 '12 at 19:47
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    @owari: Defining "what is wrong" is an entire branch of philosophy - often called ethics ;) I can't provide one single source that's indubitably correct in its assessment of right and wrong (I can't even provide 100 - as there are thousands - and they often contradict). – David Titarenco Sep 28 '12 at 22:55

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