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FREE SPEECH 48: Truth, Autonomy and Free Speech, with Susan Williams

 Feminism is a useful lens through which to view the law because it reveals unspoken assumptions where the disputes seem almost ideological and no longer legal. Professor Susan Williams takes a dispassionate view of the speech debates and shows that they tend to advance one of two views: free speech leads to the truth, or free speech allows citizens to be fully autonomous. Both views are important but not easily reconciled. The first, where free speech will let the truth rise to the top, is Cartesian. The second view, where speech enables the subject to be an autonomous agent in society, is subjective. Professor Williams explains how there may be a better way of conceptualizing free speech that is based on a relational truth theory and narrative autonomy theory. 

In our conversation I saw the significance of free speech rights in a new way, and Professor Williams explained why the current impasse in debates over free speech can be productively resolved when we agree that living in the world means also accepting a shared reality.