Is Sincerity the First Virtue of Social Institutions? Police, Universities, and Free Speech
In the final chapter of Speech Matters, Seana Shiffrin argues that institutions have especially stringent duties to protect speech freedoms. In this article, I develop a few lines of criticism. First, I question whether Shiffrin’s framework of justified suspended contexts is appropriate for institutional settings. Second, I challenge the presumption that the knowledge-gathering function performed by police is necessarily compromised by insincere practices. Third, I criticize Shiffrin’s characterization of the university as involving a complete repudiation of enforced consensus, and I express doubts about the close connection between education and democratic legitimation that Shiffrin endorses. Finally, I raise a problem with the book’s overall argument: even if one agrees that speech freedoms are necessary for moral development, they also may be threatening to moral development. The upshot is that the protection of speech should be modulated in order to account for the potential conflicts between sincerity and other valuable ends, rather than being oriented above all to sincerity.
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