Free speech: A philosophical inquiry into the revolutionary roots of American and French legal thought

In the United States the legal protection of freedom of expression trumps the protection of other values, a sign of American exceptionalism. The harm often attributed to provocative or offensive viewpoints is rarely considered in the United States as sufficiently significant to mobilize state coercion. France and other European States limit freedom of expression to protect other values. The presentation will propose that the divergence in the balancing of freedom of expression can be understood in reference to the broader historical, social and philosophical context in which jurists operate. The balancing of freedom of speech and other values in France and the United States can be understood by reference to the understanding of liberty in a legal system formed at the moment of the French and the American Revolutions. This understanding affects how jurists define the content and the limits of a liberty and strike a balance between liberties in conflict.