Obscene Words and the Law

Joel Feinberg

in The Moral Limits of the Criminal Law: Volume 2: Offense to Others

Published in print May 1988 | ISBN: 9780195052152
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785872 | DOI:
 Obscene Words and the Law

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A wholesale ban on uttering or writing obscene words cannot be justified even by the principle of legal moralism. Moreover, the offense principle cannot justify the criminal prohibition of the utterance of obscenities in public places even when these are intentionally used to cause offense. The use of obscene words can only be made criminal when it is an unjustified, deliberately imposed nuisance. This form of nuisance is a kind of harassment, and the fact that it employs obscene words is by no means essential to its moral gravamen. Obscenity in the media is discussed.

Keywords: obscene words; offense principle; harassment; media; obscenity

Chapter.  6756 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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