Slurs as Ideology: A Defence of ProhibitionismPepa Mellema
26th Annual Oxford Graduate Philosophy Conference
Faculty of Philosophy
Oxford OX2 6GG
- Aristotelian Society
- Royal Institute of Philosophy
- Analysis Trust
- Faculty of Philosophy
Prohibitionism is the view that slurs are offensive because they are prohibited – not because they have special semantic or pragmatic properties. Despite its intuitive appeal, prohibitionism suffers from several well-known problems. Amongst other things, it can’t distinguish slurs from other taboo words like obscenities, or explain why we would ban slurs if they truly are neutral descriptors. To make matters worse, I also argue that prohibitionism conflates the psychological phenomenon of offence with the linguistic phenomenon derogation.
Here I nonetheless argue that prohibitionism is worth saving. I develop the suggestion that the label 'slur' itself is normatively loaded into a novel version of prohibitionism – so-called ideological prohibitionism. On my account, a pejorative is a slur only insofar it reliably communicates derogatory attitudes towards a socially protected group – and we condemn derogation towards this group on ideological grounds. Slurs are thus not simply descriptive words we ban – they are pejoratives we ban because they are problematic. I conclude that my account redeems prohibitonism’s good qualities without inheriting its defects.
This is a student event (e.g. a graduate conference).
Who is attending?
No one has said they will attend yet.
Will you attend this event?