Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Self-Expression, and Kant’s Public Use of Reason

Main Article Content

Geert Van Eekert


This article turns to early modern and Enlightenment advocates of tolerance (Locke, Spinoza, John Stuart Mill) in order to discover and lay bare the line of argument that informed their commitment to free speech. This line of argument will subsequently be used to assess the shift from free speech to the contemporary ideal of free self-expression. In order to take this assessment one step further, this article will finally turn to Immanuel Kant’s famous defense of the public use of reason. In the wake of Katerina Deligiorgi’s readings of Kant, it will show that the idea of free speech requires a specific disposition on behalf of speakers and writers that is in danger of being neglected in the contemporary prevailing conception of free speech as freedom of self-expression.


Download data is not yet available.

Article Details

How to Cite
Van Eekert, Geert. 2018. “Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Self-Expression, and Kant’s Public Use of Reason”. Diametros 54 (54):118-37.
Special Issue "Enlightenment and Secularism"
Author Biography

Geert Van Eekert, University of Antwerp

Prof. Geert Van EekertDepartment of Philosophy,University of AntwerpPrinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium


Share |


Arendt H. (1978), The Life of the Mind, Harcourt, San Diego.

Ash T.G. (2016), Free Speech, Atlantic Books, London.

Deligiorigi K. (2005), Kant and the Culture of Enlightenment, SUNY Press, New York.

Kant I. (1781–87/1998), Critique of Pure Reason, trans. A.W. Wood, P. Guyer, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Kant I. (1784/1996), An Answer to the Question: What Is Enlightenment?, trans. M.J. Gregor, [in:] I. Kant, Practical Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 11–22.

Kant I. (1786/1996), What Does It Mean to Orient Oneself in Thinking?, trans. A. Wood, [in:] I. Kant, Religion and Rational Theology, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 7–20.

Kant I. (1790/2000), Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. P. Guyer, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Kant I. (1798/2007), Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View, trans. R.B. Louden, [in:] I. Kant, Anthropology, History, and Education, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 227-429.

Locke J. (1991), A Letter Concerning Toleration in Focus, J. Horton, S. Mendus (eds.), Routledge, London and New York.

Mill J.S. (1929), On Liberty, Watts & Co., London.

O’Neill O. (2013), “From Toleration to Freedom of Expression,” URL = [accessed 31.8.2017].

O’Neill O. (2015), Constructing Authorities. Reason, Politics and Interpretation in Kant’s Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Scanlon T.M. (2003), The Difficulty of Tolerance. Essays in Political Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Schwartz R.M. (2012), “Truth, Free Speech, and the Legacy of John Milton’s Areopagitica,” Teoria 32: 47–58.

Spinoza B. (1989), Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, trans. S. Shirley, Brill, Leiden.

Van Mill D. (2017), “Freedom of Speech,” URL = [accessed 8.11.2017].