SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Normativity of Slurs
(Philosophy of Language, English)

Slurs are a form of hate speech. They arbitrarily identify a group of people based on a distinctive feature resulting from the normative component of hate speech. It is thus a feature born from hate- agents rather than from natural aspects of the addressees. This characterisation flatly contradicts the traditional approach (TA) to slurs, which defines slurs as based on features of the targeted group such as race, ethnic origin, religion, gender, etc. Contrary to TA, I will propose a Positive Account (PA) that deals best with the semantic content of slurs.

On the one hand, I will characterize TA as the strategy that proposes a double thesis: firstly, that slurs have neutral counterparts that function as the slur's reference (NCT) and secondly, that it is not the case that slurs always derogate (¬SOT). The content of slurs is thus described as having a double nature: a descriptive element and a normative element. Furthermore, TA's double thesis rests on a strong assumption: that normative meaning depends on descriptive meaning. As a result, the fact of affirming NCT commits TA to denying SOT. While neutral counterparts can stand by themselves, purely derogative words are contentless without their descriptive reference. However, TA seems to have some difficulties explaining nonderogatory uses of slurs -even if it advocates for their existence-.

On the other hand, PA departs from denying the dual nature TA advocates to slurs. Stating that neutral counterparts stand as slurs' references implies both a descriptive and a normative nature of slurs' contents. On the contrary, PA wants to make the case for a fully-fledged normative characterization of slurs' contents.

I will firstly characterize TA as the approach defending the double thesis NCT/¬SOT. Secondly, I will show TA's difficulties to explain nonderogatory cases. Lastly, I will make the case for PA. PA also stands for a double positive-negative thesis. However, whereas TA affirms NCT while denying SOT, I will defend the opposite: SOT does hold while NCT does not. There are two immediate consequences of stating this viewpoint: on the one hand, the errors that take TA to counterintuitive characterizations of slurs will be solved and on the other hand, new phenomena regarding slurs left unaddressed by TA will be explained.

Time: 11:20-11:50, 20 September 2019 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.006

Maria Bibiloni 
(University of Aberdeen, UK)

I did my Undergraduate studies at the National University of La Plata (Argentina). My final dissertation tackled the old debate between Semantics and Pragmatics in the Philosophy of Language. In 2018, I was awarded the Elphinstone Scholarship for doing my PhD at the University of Aberdeen. My current research focuses on topics related to verbal abuse and is supervised by Dr Stephan Torre within the Leverhulme International Network Grant "What's So Special about First-Person Thought?". Back in Argentina, I worked as an educator in vulnerable social contexts which led me to dig deeper into long life concerns such as Education, Feminism, Ethics and Politics; all of which I try to blend with my academic interests.

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