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Taking Profound Offence Seriously - Freedom Of Speech V. Human Dignity

Cohen-Almagor, Raphael



This study discusses the issue of offence to sensibilities as possible grounds for limiting freedom of expression. This issue is constantly brought to the public agenda, as for example, in the limitation imposed in Israel on the playing of Richard Wagner’s music by Israeli orchestras. The proposed thesis is as follows: The Offence to Sensibilities Argument will take precedence over free expression only in cases where profound and direct damage is inflicted upon the sensibilities of individuals or a target group, undermining their dignity, especially when the speaker’s intentions are to offend the target individual/group under circumstances in which the individual or target group cannot avoid. In every case, it is incumbent upon those who wish to limit expression to examine the content of the expression and its manner, the duration and intensity of the expression, the frequency of the offence, the speaker’s intentions, the circumstances and the likely consequences of the offensive speech. Psychologists should be consulted concerning the severity of each offence.


Cohen-Almagor, R. (2020). Taking Profound Offence Seriously - Freedom Of Speech V. Human Dignity. Journal of hate studies, 16(1), 1-11.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Mar 30, 2020
Online Publication Date Dec 29, 2020
Publication Date Dec 29, 2020
Deposit Date Dec 30, 2020
Publicly Available Date Jan 5, 2021
Journal Journal of Hate Studies
Publisher Gonzaga Library Publishing
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 1
Article Number 1
Pages 1-11
Keywords Freedom of expression; Feinberg; Harm; Offence; Skokie; Wagner
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Copyright Statement
© 2020 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See

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