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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 16, 2000

Race, Social Identity, and Human Dignity

Kory Schaff
Pages 185-201

Hate Speech and the Problems of Agency
A Critique of Butler

At the center of the hate speech controversy is the question whether it constitutes conduct. If hate speech is not conduct, then restricting it runs counter to free speech. But even if it could be shown that it is a kind of conduct, complicated questions arise. Does it necessarily follow that we restrict speech? Practically speaking, can speech even be restricted, either through new legislation or the enforcement of existing laws regulating conduct? Are measures such as hate crimes legislation both useful and appropriate in protecting individuals and groups from violence? The present paper aims to address these questions by reconstructing and assessing Judith Butler’s important treatment of speech-acts and hate speech in her book Excitable Speech: The Politics of the Performative

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