Communicating offense: the sordid life of language use

Abstract

We encounter offense through various media: an intended facetious remark, a protester’s photographic image of an aborted fetus, an epithet, a stereotypical joke of a minority racial group. People say things that cause offense all of the time. And causing offense can have serious consequences, both personal and professional; the offending party is subject to termination, suspension, or social isolation and public opprobrium. Since the stakes are so high we should have a better understanding of the mechanisms of offense involved in these media and how they work. In this dissertation I focus on two mechanisms for communicating offense—i.e. racial and ethnic slurs and racial humor. First, I lay out a few distinctions concerning the particular kind of offense being targeted, objective versus subjective offense, and when state involvement might be appropriate for penalizing offensive behavior. Next, I discuss racial slurs and the conditions of their offensiveness. I offer a non-content based view of slurs’ offense, which contradicts the consensus view held by most philosophers of language and linguists working on this issue. Also, I look more closely at a purportedly non-offensive use of slurring language, so-called linguistic appropriation, and determine that appropriated uses are permissible in certain settings only under certain conditions. And finally, I propose a tri-partite analysis of racial jokes that provides conditions for when they are merely racial, racially insensitive, or racist.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 91,038

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

  • Only published works are available at libraries.

Similar books and articles

Analytics

Added to PP
2014-12-05

Downloads
78 (#198,050)

6 months
2 (#725,330)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Luvell Anderson
Syracuse University

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references