Civil Rights Vs. Civil Liberties: The Case of Discriminatory Verbal Harassment

Social Philosophy and Policy 8 (02):81- (1991)
American liberals believe that both civil liberties and civil rights are harmonious aspects of a basic commitment to human rights. But recently these two clusters of values have seemed increasingly to conflict – as, for example, with the feminist claim that the legal toleration of pornography, long a goal sought by civil libertarians, actually violates civil rights as a form of sex discrimination. Here I propose an interpretation of the conflict of civil rights and civil liberties in its latest manifestation: the controversy over how to treat discriminatory verbal harassment on American campuses. I was involved with the controversy in a practical way at Stanford, where I helped draft a harassment regulation that was recently adopted by the university. Like the pornography issue, the harassment problem illustrates the element of paradox in the conflict of civil-liberties and civil-rights perspectives or mentalities. This problem does not simply trigger familiar disagreements between liberals of a classical or libertarian orientation as against those of a welfare state or social democratic one – though it does sometimes do that. In my experience, the issue also has the power to appear to a single person in different shapes and suggest different solutions as it oscillates between being framed in civil-liberties and in civil-rights terms. At the same time, however, it remains recognizably the same problem. It is thus a very practical and political example of the kind of tension noted by Wittgenstein in the aphorism that heads this essay – a puzzle of interpretive framing, of “seeing-as.”
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 13,009
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Mary Lyn Stoll (2005). Corporate Rights to Free Speech? Journal of Business Ethics 58 (1-3):261 - 269.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

14 ( #129,215 of 1,410,123 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #107,970 of 1,410,123 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.