Date of Award
Master of Arts
Peter van Elswyk
William Bristow, Joshua Spencer
Ideology, Philosophy of Language, Pragmatics, Semantics, Slurs
Speaker-orientation views (Hom 2008; Neufeld 2019; Camp 2013; Anderson and Lepore 2013; Williamson 2009; Jeshion 2013; Bolinger 2017) explain why slurs are offensive in terms of what slurs reveal about the general point of view of their speakers. Directive theories (Kirk-Giannini 2019) explain slurs are offensive by predicting that slurs issue directives that direct others to adopt their speaker’s point of view. As Kirk-Giannini (2019) notes, speaker-orientation views face the problem of old news. Slurs can communicate novel offensive content even after a speaker’s general point of view is known. Directive theories, meanwhile, face a novel problem I dub the directive problem. Contrary to what such theories predict, the felicity of a slur does not rest on the felicity of its associated directive. There is thus need for a novel theory of slurs, one which solves both problems. This paper proposes a theory that does that. Slurs communicate ideological verdicts: they represent that disrespectful, ideological practices apply to their targets and reveal the ideological formation their speaker is a part of. Slurs therefore neither issue directives (hence the solution to the directive problem) nor just reveal a general point of view (hence the solution to the problem of old news); rather, they apply that point of view in a context—much like a judge might apply a legal doctrine to a specific case.
Sapir, Jacob, "Slurs Are Verdicts" (2021). Theses and Dissertations. 2831.