On Deniability

Mind 132 (526):372-401 (2023)
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Abstract

Communication can be risky. Like other kinds of actions, it comes with potential costs. For instance, an utterance can be embarrassing, offensive, or downright illegal. In the face of such risks, speakers tend to act strategically and seek ‘plausible deniability’. In this paper, we propose an account of the notion of deniability at issue. On our account, deniability is an epistemic phenomenon. A speaker has deniability if she can make it epistemically irrational for her audience to reason in certain ways. To avoid predictable confusion, we distinguish deniability from a practical correlate we call ‘untouchability’. Roughly, a speaker has untouchability if she can make it practically irrational for her audience to act in certain ways. These accounts shed light on the nature of strategic speech and suggest countermeasures against strategic speech.

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Author Profiles

Julia Zakkou
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
Alexander Dinges
Humboldt University, Berlin

Citations of this work

On Subtweeting.Eleonore Neufeld & Elise Woodard - forthcoming - In Patrick Connolly, Sanford C. Goldberg & Jennifer Saul (eds.), Conversations Online. Oxford University Press.
Fictions that don’t tell the truth.Neri Marsili - 2024 - Philosophical Studies 181 (5):1025-1046.
Bad Language Makes Good Politics.Adam F. Gibbons - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.

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References found in this work

Elusive knowledge.David Lewis - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):549 – 567.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Philosophy 76 (297):460-464.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
Knowledge and Action.John Hawthorne & Jason Stanley - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (10):571-590.
Epistemic operators.Fred I. Dretske - 1970 - Journal of Philosophy 67 (24):1007-1023.

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