Stanley Fish's view on free speech with a personal opinion.

Essay by Nelli625xUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2003

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In the essay in his recent book, "There's No Such Thing as Free Speech and it's a

Good Thing Too," Fish argues that free speech "is not an independent value, but a

political prize," and any differences, which the courts have drawn between, protected and

unprotected expressions are "malleable." Like any other concept, the principle of free

speech is, for Fish, "inherently nothing," but one more noise in the "din and confusion of

partisan struggle."

Fish, a literary theorist, has brought textual theory and post structuralism into the

debate over how to understand legal theory. Fish argues that there is no such thing as an

objective legal text that can be applied to law. So, for example, to use a title for his

famous essay There's No Such Thing as Free Speech and It's a Good Thing Too because

free speech does not and cannot reside in some Platonic ideal.

Rather it can only be

understood as a reason of politics or in terms of what people and groups can get away

with in any particular time and in a given circumstance. Fish analyzed textual studies and

legal studies particularly. This led to his view of "interpretive studies" as the location

where meaning is created in relation to a text. Such communities are usually composed of

"experts" or groups of like-minded and influential people, such as literary critics or


Fish also condemns the idea that legal theory can be used in a positive way to

guide legal judgments and justice in general. Instead he argues, "theory is irrelevant;"

judges, like baseball players or fully socialized members of any other interpretive

community, do not apply theory when they are making decisions. They might use theory

after the fact to provide a justification for their actions, but at the time...