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Departmental Colloquium, 2019/2020

Colloquia take place from 4.15pm to 6:00pm in OC1.07 (Oculus Building) unless otherwise indicated. For further information, please contact Naomi Eilan ( or Barnaby Walker ( Details of previous years’ colloquia can be found here.

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Philosophy Department Colloquium

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Location: S0.17/online

Guest Speaker: Robert Simpson (UCL)

Speaker: Robert Simpson (UCL)

Talk: The Chilling Effect and the Heating Effect

 Abstract: Chilling Effects occur when a restriction on speech deters lawful speech, because of people’s uncertainty about the risks of incurring costs related to the restriction. I propose that, contrary to an orthodox account of this phenomenon, individual-level deterrence of speech sometimes intensifies discourse, at the group-level, rather than suppressing or subduing it. The deterrence of lawful speech may, somewhat counterintuitively, trigger a Heating Effect. This hypothesis offers us a promising (partial) explanation of the relentlessness of public debate on topics for which there is, simultaneously, evidence of people self-censoring, for fear of running afoul of speech restrictions. It also helps to identify and rectify two shortcomings in existing theoretical accounts of the Chilling Effect – in how they (i) explain the relation between individual- and group-level discursive phenomena, and (ii) characterize the distinctive objectionability of inadvertent speech deterrence.

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