Professor Seana Valentine Shiffrin has produced an exciting new book, Speech Matters: On Lying, Morality, and the Law. Shiffrin’s previous rigorous, careful, and morally sensitive work spans contract law, intellectual property, and the freedoms of association and expression. Speech Matters is in line with Shiffrin’s signature move: we ought to reform our social practices and legal and political institutions to, in various ways, address or accommodate moral values—here, a stringent moral prohibition against lying, a strident principle of promissory fidelity, that is, the principle that one ought to keep one’s promises, and the general value of veracity. The book grows out of Shiffrin’s Hempel Lectures at Princeton University and honorary lectures she has given at Cornell and New York Universities. Shiffrin cotaught a seminar with the late Professor Ronald Dworkin, which discussed a prepublication draft of the book (pp. ix–x). The volume is organized into six essentially independent chapters or lectures. Chapters One, Two, and Six began as independent, stand-alone lectures; Shiffrin crafted Chapters Three, Four, and Five to further expand on the arguments of One and Six (p. 4). While the volume bears a unifying theme, Shiffrin intended the chapters to retain their independence as distinct lectures, and she welcomes readers to delve into the chapters independently of one another (p. 4). Speech Matters is, at its core, a rich discussion of moral agency and the normative values of sincerity, truth telling, promissory fidelity, and the effect they ought to bear on personal and social relations, and political and legal institutions. This Review brings forward this unifying theme and provides a critical appraisal, contrasting Shiffrin’s stridently Kantian approach with an alternative foundationally deontic, if less severe, distributive approach.
* Assistant Professor of Law, Michigan State University College of Law; Visiting Associate Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law; Affiliated Transnational Faculty, Peking University School of Transnational Law (China). I am grateful to Adam Candeub, John Inazu, Renee Knake, Jeffrey Lehman, Neil Richards, and Greg Magarian for helpful comments and discussions and to Brittany Mouzourakis for outstanding research assistance.