Philosophy 2120K:
 Slurs and Hate Speech

See here for some notes on the readings, including information on how to obtain suitable file viewers.

If you cannot access the links below, then a simple web search, by author's name and title, will often turn up copies of these papers.

12 September

H.P. Grice, "Logic and Conversation", in Studies in the Ways of Words (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1989), pp. 22-40 (DjVu)

Mitchell Green, "Speech Acts", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, §§1-3 and 9 (Online)

Wayne Davis, "Implicature", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, §§1-5 and 12 (Online)

Obviously, you should feel free to read the rest of these entries, but the sections indicated should be enough for our purposes.

19 September

Robert Stalnaker, "Pragmatic Presuppositions", in Context and Content: Essays on Intentionality in Speech and Thought (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 47-62 (DjVu)

David Lewis, "Scorekeeping in a Language Game", Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1979), pp. 339-359 (JSTOR, PhilPapers, DjVu)

Kepa Porta and John Perry, "Pragmatics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, §§1-2 (Online)

Optional: Robert Stalnaker, "Common Ground", Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (2002), pp. 701-21 (JSTOR, PhilPapers, PDF)

Optional: Christopher Potts, "Into the Conventional-Implicature Dimension", Philosophy Compass 4 (2007), pp. 665-679 (Wiley Online, Potts's website)

26 September

You should definitely read Hom first, and I guess I'd suggest reading the others too in the order given.

Christopher Hom, "The Semantics of Racial Epithets", Journal of Philosophy 105 (2008), pp. 416-440 (PhilPapers, PDCNet, PDF)

Christopher Hom and Robert May, "Moral and Semantic Innocence", Analytic Philosophy 54 (2013), pp. 293-313 (PhilPapers, Wiley Online, PDF)

Elizabeth Camp, "Slurring Perspectives", Analytic Philosophy 54 (2013), pp. 330-49 (PhilPapers, Wiley Online, Camp's website)

3 October

Mark Richard, When Truth Gives Out (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), Ch. 1, "Epithets and Attitudes" (PDF)

Robin Jeshion, "Expressivism and The Offensiveness of Slurs", Philosophical Perspectives 27 (2013), pp. 231-59 (PhilPapers, Wiley Online,

Kent Bach, "Loaded Words: On the Semantics and Pragmatics of Slurs" (Bach's website, PDF)

Optional: Robert May, "Bad Words" Remarks on Mark Richard 'Epithets and Attitudes'" (PDF). Note that this is a very early paper, and May's current views differ in some ways.

10 October

No class: Indigenous Peoples' Day

However, you should use this time to read Randall Kennedy's book Ni***r: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. You should also write something about the book on the course forum, as usual.

17 October

Renée Jorgensen Bolinger, "The Pragmatics of Slurs", forthcoming in Noûs (PhilPapers, Wiley Online, PDF)

Daniel Whiting, "It's Not What You Said, It's the Way You Said It: Slurs and Conventional Implicatures", Analytic Philosophy 54 (2013), pp. 364-77 (PhilPapers, Wiley Online, Whiting's website, PDF)

Luvell Anderson and Ernie Lepore, "Slurring Words", Noûs 47 (2013), pp. 25-48 (PhilPapers, Wiley Online, PDF)

Presenter(s): Yongming Han and Lee Vincent

24 October

Rae Langton, "Speech Acts and Unspeakable Acts", Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (1993), pp. 293-330 (PhilPapers, JSTOR, DjVu); also reprinted in her Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), Ch. 1

You may find it useful to review the SEP article on speech acts we read earlier.

Optional: Catherine MacKinnon, Only Words (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), Ch. 1, "Defamation and Discrimination" (PDF, DjVu, Féministes radicales)

Leslie Green, "Pornographizing, Subordinating, Silencing", in Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 1998), pp. 285-311 (, DjVu)

Rae Langton, "Pornography's Authority? Response to Leslie Green", in Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 89-102 (DjVu); this is a shortened version of a response that appeared together with Green's paper in Censorship and Silencing

Presenter(s): Anna Brinkerhoff and Emily Hodges

31 October

Daniel Jacobson, "Freedom of Speech Acts? A Response to Langton", Philosophy and Public Affairs 24 (1995), pp. 64-78 (PhilPapers, DjVu)

Jennifer Hornsby and Rae Langton, "Free Speech and Illocution", Legal Theory 4 (1998), pp. 21-37 (PhilPapers, DjVu); a shortened version appears as "Freedom of Illocution? A Response to Daniel Jacobson", in Sexual Solipsism, Ch. 3

Nellie Wieland, "Linguistic Authority and Convention in a Speech Act Analysis of Pornography", Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2007), pp. 435-56 (PhilPapers, Taylor and Francis Online, PDF)

Ishani Maitra and Mary Kate McGowan, "On Sliencing, Rape, and Responsibility", Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (2010), pp. 167-72 (PhilPapers, Taylor and Francis Online, PDF)

Optional but recommended: Louise Antony, "Against Langton's Illocutionary Treatment of Pornography", Jurisprudence 2 (2011), pp. 387-401 (PDF); note that this file also includes several other commentaries which are well worth reading, and also replies by Langton

If you want to get a better sense for David Lewis's view of how conventions fix meaning, have a look at pp. 3-12 of his "Languages and Language", Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7 (1975), pp. 3-35 (DjVu, Minnesota Studies)

Presenter(s): Bill Marcy (Jacobson and the reply from Hornsby and Langton)

7 November

Rae Langton and Caroline West, "Scorekeeping in a Pornographic Language Game", Australasian Journal of Philosophy 77 (1999), pp. 303-19 (PhilPapers, Taylor and Francis Online, DjVu); also reprinted in Langton, Sexual Solipsism, Ch. 8

A related analysis has been defended by Mary Kate McGowan in a series of papers beginning with "Conversational Exercetives and the Force of Pornography", Philosophy and Public Affairs 31 (2003), pp. 155-189 (JSTOR, DjVu)

Linda Williams, Hard Core: Power, Pleasure, and the "Frenzy of the Visible" (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), Ch. 1 (DjVu)
Williams's book is often credited, and rightly so, with initiating the serious academic study of pornography as a genre, even if her focus is entirely on pornographic film. (Williams is now Professor Emerita of Film & Media at the University of California, Berkeley.)

Judith Butler, "The Force of Fantasy: Feminism, Mapplethorpe, and Discursive Excess", differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 2 (1990), pp. 105-25; reprinted in The Judith Butler Reader (Malden MA: Blackwell, 2004), pp. 183-203 (DjVu (original), DjVu (reprint))

If you're not familiar with the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, or the controversy surrounding it, have a look at this page for examples of his work; at his Wikipedia page for some information about his life; at this story from the Cincinnati Enquirer, which recounts an obscenity trial connected with his photography; and this "not safe for work" page, which includes six of the photographs that caused such a stir.

In connection with Butler's concerns about the likely targets of censorship: These two articles discuss the recent controversy at the University of California regarding allegedly anti-Semitic hate speech; Butler released a statement about that controversy herself. Regarding restrictions on pornography, there was much discussion not long ago about the nature of the impact that certain restrictions on online pornography in the UK would have.

Optional: Lynne Segal, "Only the Literal: The Contradictions of Anti-Pornography Feminism", Sexualities 1 (1998), pp. 42-62 (DjVu); reprinted in P.C. Gibson, ed. More Dirty Looks: Gender, Pornography and Power (London: BFI Publishing, 2004), pp. 59-70
This paper overlaps to some extent with "Sweet Sorrows", which we'll read later.

Optional: Laura Kipnis, "(Male) Desire and (Female) Disgust: Reading Hustler", in Ecstasy Unlimited (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), pp. 219-41 (DjVu).
Another piece well worth reading is her "How To Look At Pornography", in Bound and Gagged: Pornography and the Politics of Fantasy in America (New York: Grove Press, 1996), pp. 161-206

Presenter(s): Rachel Leadon and Willa Tracy

14 November

Jennifer Saul, "Pornography, Speech Acts, and Context", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106 (2006), pp. 227-46 (PhilPapers, JSTOR, PDF)

Claudia Bianchi, "Indexicals, Speech Acts and Pornography", Analysis 68 (2008), pp. 310-316 (PhilPapers, JSTOR, PDF)

Mari Mikkola, "Contexts and Pornography", Analysis 68 (2008), pp. 316-320 (PhilPapers, JSTOR, PDF)

Jennifer Saul, "On Treating Things as People: Objectification, Pornography, and the History of the Vibrator", Hypatia 21 (2006), pp. 45-61 (PhilPapers, JSTOR, DjVu)

Optional: Sally Haslanger, "On Being Objective and Being Objectified", in her Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 35-82 (DjVu); Rae Langton, "Sexual Solipsism", Philosophical Topics 23 (1995), pp. 149-87 (JStor); Melinda Vadas, "The Manufacture-for-use of Pornography and Women's Inequality", Journal of Political Philosophy 13 (2005), pp. 174-93 (Wiley Online)

Presenter(s): Mark Christman and Larry Kenny

21 November

Anne Eaton, "A Sex-Positive Anti-Porn Feminism" (PDF)
Please do not circulate this draft any further.

Optional: Anne Eaton, "A Sensible Anti-Porn Feminism", Ethics 117 (2007), pp. 674-715 (JStor, PDF)

Lynne Segal, "Sweet Sorrows, Painful Pleasures: Pornography and the Perils of Heterosexual Desire", in L. Segal and M. McIntosh, eds., Sex Exposed: Sexuality and the Pornography Debate (New Brunswick NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1993), pp. 65-91 (DjVu)

Simon Hardy, "Feminist Iconoclasm and the Problem of Eroticism", Sexualities 3 (2000), pp. 77-96 (Sage Publications, PDF)

Erika Lust, "It's Time for Porn to Change", TedX Talk, 1 November 2014 (YouTube, MP4)

Optional: Constance Penley, "A Feminist Teaching Pornography? That's Like Scopes Teaching Evolution!", in T. Taormino, et al., eds., The Feminist Porn Book: The Politics of Producing Pleausure (New York: The Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 2012), pp. 179-199 (DjVu)
Video presentation based on the paper: "Non-Adult Film/Adult Film: The Marked and the Unmarked" (Vimeo)

28 November

Caroline West, "Words That Silence? Freedom of Expression and Racist Hate Speech", in Speech and Harm, pp. 222-48 (PDF)

Lynne Tirell, "Genocidal Language Games", in Speech and Harm, pp. 174-221 (PDF)

Optional: Ishani Maitra, "Subordinating Speech", in I. Maitra and M.K. McGowan, eds., Speech and Harm: Controversies Over Free Speech (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 94-120 (PDF)

Optional: Laura Beth Nielsen, "Power in Public: Reactions, Responses, and Resistance to Offensive Public Speech", in Speech and Harm, pp. 148-73 (PDF)

Presenter(s): Mark Christman and Larry Kenny

5 December

Joshua Cohen, "Freedom, Equality, Pornography", in J. Spector, ed., Prostitution and Pornography: Philosophical Debate About the Sex Industry (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 2006), pp. 258-95; originally published in A. Sarat and T. Kearns, eds., Justice and Injustice in Law and Legal Theory (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996) (DjVu)

Eric Swanson, "Slurs and Ideologies" (Swanson's website, PDF)

Optional: Judith Butler, "Burning Acts: Injurious Speech", The University of Chicago Law School Roundtable 3 (1996), pp. 199-221 (Chicago Unbound, DjVu); also reprinted as Ch. 1 of Exciteable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997)

Optional: Judith Butler, "Sovereign Performatives in the Contemporary Scene of Utterance", Critical Inquiry 23 (1997), pp. 350-77 (PhilPapers, JSTOR, DjVu); also reprinted as Ch. 2 of Exciteable Speech

Presenter(s): Mark Benz and Geoff Grossman

12 December

Jennifer Saul, "Dogwhistles, Political Manipulation and Philosophy of Language" (PhilPapers, PDF)

Presenter(s): Rachel Leadon

Richard Heck Department of Philosophy Brown University