Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2010

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Andrew Altman

Second Advisor

George Rainbolt

Third Advisor

William Edmundson

Fourth Advisor

Andrew I. Cohen


The First Amendment gives U.S. citizens a Hohfeldian legal immunity that disables Congress from removing citizens’ legal liberty to criticize the government. Any attempt by Congress to remove this liberty would fail, but such an attempt would still wrong citizens. The familiar concept of claim-violation does not fully account for this wrong. Claims name actions that ought not be performed and are violated when those actions are performed. Immunities names actions that cannot be performed. Congress would wrong citizens not by doing something it ought not do but by attempting and failing to do something it cannot do. Using elements of Jean Hampton’s expressive theory of punishment, I analyze Congress’ attempt (and other similar acts) as an expressive act that denies the existence of immunities. Congress’ immunity-“contradiction” would wrong U.S. citizens by denying the value that generates the immunity, by causing damage to the acknowledgement of the citizens’ value, and by threatening the existence of the immunity.


Included in

Philosophy Commons