Philosophy 2120K:
 Slurs and Hate Speech

Picture of Prof Richard Heck Instructor: Richard Heck
Office: Corliss-Brackett 216
Phone: 401-863-3217
Office Hours: W1-2, F11-12

General Information

Over the last decade or so, a significant literature has developed in philosophy of language on slurs, by which I mean words like "fa***t", "ni***r", and the like. This literature was largely motivated by general issues about the distinction between semantics and pragmatics, though it has of necessity touched upon social and political issues, as well.

Around the same time, a significant literature was also developing on hate speech. This literature largely developed out of work on pornography done by Rae Langton, who drew on earlier work by Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon. Langton's work is itself grounded in philosophy of language, but is primarily concerned with moral and social issues.

So far as I can tell, there has not been a great deal of overlap between these two literatures, with the possible exception of one recent paper by Eric Swanson. It is, however, an obvious and natural question what these two literatures might have to teach one another. It will be our goal here to familiarize ourselves with each of them, and then to see how each might bear upon the other.

The general plan, then, is as follows. We'll spend the first two weeks laying some relevant background in philosophy of language. We'll then spend a few weeks reading some of the literature on pornography. At the end of the semester, we'll read some of the broader literature on hate speech, and finally look at the paper by Swanson just mentioned and at a recent paper by Jennifer Saul.

Meetings are held Mondays, 3-5.30, in the seminar room in Corliss-Brackett.

Richard Heck Department of Philosophy Brown University