An analysis of the freedom of speech and violation debate in Denmark

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Miki Ray Eriksen
4. term, Applied Philosophy, Master (Master Programme)
Ever since the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published the caricature drawings of the islamic prophet Muhammed in 2005 the debate regarding the internal relationship between freedom of speech, and the innate feeling of being violated an individual can experience, have been going on in the public sphere. The discussion in Denmark regarding these two different concepts have resulted in polarized opinions in the public debate concerning the topic. On this note, the atmosphere of the debate at present is represented in rather one-sided and self-sufficient manners, in which each side of the debate is trying to get their specific points across without reconciling with other approaches to the issue. The overarching theme of these debates can be condensed to two basic human rights, namely the freedom to express your inner thoughts in writing and speech, and the latter concerning the basic civic right not to be offended and violated on the utmost basic human needs. Both of these rights are considered universal and fundamental building blocks in any modern democracy. This inherent social contract – which it can be perceived as – is therefore represented in The United Nations Resolution of Civic rights, and it is woven into the fabric of the Danish constitution. Consequently, the main subject of this thesis is to explore and uncover arguments that can solidify whether or not these two distinct concepts are interconnected, and secondly – if the first statement appears to be true – understand in which ways the two concepts affect each other. The approach in this inquiry has been to examine these two separate discourses in the public debate. To conduct this research, this paper has primarily drawn on the works of John Stuart Mill and Axel Honneth. With Mill it is concluded that the differences in the importance of freedom of speech in the culture clash of western thought and middle eastern can be attributed to the basic differences of either a totalitarian or democratic state. This essential difference helps explain the specific Danish outlook on freedom of speech, and hence why it has been a hot topic for debate in the world community. Honneth's theory of recognition helped unfold and explain underlying reasons why Danish universities in recent years have seen a rise in so-called “discrimination cases”. Combined, these two philosophical theories give explanatory power in analyzing and ascribing at which critical points these two aforementioned discourses are intertwined. The conclusion drawn from this work has been that these two different discourses in the public debate are much more interconnected than they appear at first glance. In this thesis, it has therefore been pointed out that each of these discourses so far have only achieved to point towards one side of the case, meanwhile in reality it most likely are considered two sides of the same case. In a perspective regarding these research finds, there have been spotted indications drawn from a conducted survey from the Danish Ministry of Justice, that there might be a shift in the attitude of the general public in Denmark towards a reevaluation of how these two basic civic rights are to be weighed against one another. Furthermore, in the wake of recent public demonstrations and other dramatic events, we can see there might be a reawakening in the presence of the public mind of the importance which this discussion bares amongst the community and society in general.
Publication date27 May 2020
Number of pages722
ID: 333097680