Philosophical Topics 49 (1):165-185 (2021)

Jason Stanley
Yale University
David Beaver
University of Texas at Austin
Neutrality functions as an ideal in deliberation—we are supposed to have a neutral standpoint in debate, speak without bias or taking sides. We argue against the ideal of neutrality. We sketch how a theory of meaning could avoid commitment even to the coherence of a neutral space of discourse for exchanging reasons. In a model that accepts the ideal of neutrality, what makes propaganda exceptional is its non-neutrality. However, a critique of propaganda cannot take the form of “clearing out” the obstacles for a “neutral space of discourse for exchanging reasons”, since that is to misunderstand how speech works. Such a critique would suggest that any emotive appeal is fundamentally undemocratic, and would delegitimize almost all historical protest movements. In this paper, we contrast a neo-Fregean picture of the neutral core of language with our own practice-based view, a view that takes political propaganda and the language of protest as central cases, and in which all language practice is understood as fundamentally perspectival.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind
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DOI 10.5840/philtopics202149110
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