Limits to the freedom of expression


Leonardo Boff

The terrorists attacks in Paris and Copenhagen earlier this year, perpetrated by Islamist extremists and precipitated by cartoons deemed insulting to Mahomet, have brought freedom of expression under scrutiny. In France there is a true, almost hysterical, obsession with affirming the limitless freedom of expression, the sacred legacy, as the French say, of illuminism and the lay nature of the State. Freedom of expression is absolute.

To the contrary, and with good reason, the prophetic bishop Don Pedro Casaldaliga asserted: «other than God and hunger; nothing is absolute in this world, everything else is relative and limited». Extending Gödel’s theorem beyond mathematics, one can affirm the insurmountable incompleteness, and limitations on everything that exists. Why would freedom of expression be different? Freedom of expression does not escape the limits that must be recognized. Otherwise, we would give free rein both to all is good, and to vendettas. The French idea…

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