Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy (MCMP)

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Talk (Work in Progress): Stefan Rinner (MCMP/LMU)

11.07.2019 12:00  – 14:00 


Slurs and Nondisplaceability


Language can be used in highly destructive ways. One such way is the usage of slurs. Such expressions are not only used to designate their targets. They are also used to derogate their targets. In the philosophy of language and in linguistics, this led to the question how derogation by means of slurs is accomplished. Some theorists hold that the derogatory force of slurs can be explained by the content (semantic, pragmatic, presuppositional) they express, whereas others deny that there is any specifically derogatory content expressed by slurs. This is not only of importance for philosophers of language and linguists. Getting clear on how hate speech involving slurs harms its targets, may also have implications for other disciplines. For example, it may have implications for the question of whether there should be legal restrictions on hate speech involving slurs.

In connection with the question of how derogation by means of slurs is accomplished it has been argued that slurs exhibit nondisplaceability, i.e. that the use of a slur is derogatory even as an embedded term in a larger construction. More precise, it has been argued that this holds for all intensional operators, for all truth-conditional operators, and even for disquotation. In this talk, I will argue that our intuitions that slurs are derogatory embedded in the intensional operators 'x says that' and 'x believes that' can be misleading. I will argue that the same is true for disquotation. Following this, I will argue that slurs are neither derogatory under disquotation nor embedded in 'x says that' and in 'x believes that'. Concluding, I will discuss the implication this has for the content/non-content debate regarding the derogatory force of slurs.