Can 'More Speech' Counter Ignorant Speech?

Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 16 (3) (2019)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Ignorant speech, which spreads falsehoods about people and policies, is pervasive in public discourse. A popular response to this problem recommends countering ignorant speech with more speech, rather than legal regulations. However, Mary Kate McGowan has influentially argued that this ‘counterspeech’ response is flawed, as it overlooks the asymmetric pliability of conversational norms: the phenomenon whereby some conversational norms are easier to enact than subsequently to reverse. After demonstrating that this conversational ‘stickiness’ is an even broader concern for counterspeech than McGowan suggests—it applies not just to oppressive or hateful speech, but also to ordinary policy-related misinformation—I argue that a more sophisticated account of counterspeech can nevertheless overcome it. First, the stickiness objection overlooks the distinction between ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ counterspeech. Instead of directly negating a distorted proposition, positive counterspeech affirms a correct proposition that is inconsistent with the falsehoods at hand. This, I contend, allows it to counter ignorant speech without triggering the properties that render it sticky. Second, the stickiness objection presupposes an unrefined conception of counterspeech’s temporality. Counterspeech should be understood as a diachronic process, which not only follows, but also pre-empts, ignorant utterances. Drawing on speech-act theories of silencing, I argue that pre-emptive counterspeech can condition the conversational context so as to prevent subsequent ignorant utterances from enacting sticky conversational norms. Thus, this theoretically-refined conception of counterspeech helps appreciate how verbal responses might overcome the stickiness of conversational norms; and, in doing so, it reveals that this stickiness need not provide reasons to prefer legal remedies to counterspeech.

Links

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 94,678

External links

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

Through your library

Similar books and articles

How to talk back: hate speech, misinformation, and the limits of salience.Rachel Fraser - 2023 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 22 (3):315-335.
Hate Speech in Public Discourse.Maxime Lepoutre - 2017 - Social Theory and Practice 43 (4):851-883.
Hateful Counterspeech.Maxime Lepoutre - 2022 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (4):533-554.
Law as Counterspeech.Anjalee de Silva & Robert Mark Simpson - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (4):493-510.
Narrative Counterspeech.Maxime C. Lepoutre - forthcoming - Political Studies.
A Republican Conception of Counterspeech.Suzanne Whitten - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (4):555-575.
Counterspeech.Bianca Cepollaro, Maxime Lepoutre & Robert Mark Simpson - 2022 - Philosophy Compass 18 (1):e12890.

Analytics

Added to PP
2019-12-14

Downloads
103 (#169,476)

6 months
46 (#105,912)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Maxime C. Lepoutre
University of Reading

Citations of this work

Distorted Debates.Claudia Picazo - 2022 - Topoi 42 (2):561-571.
The Place of Voting in the Ethics of Counterspeech.Corrado Fumagalli - 2023 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 26 (4):595-609.
Stability and disruptive speech.Carl Fox - forthcoming - Journal of Social Philosophy.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

How to do things with words.John Langshaw Austin - 1962 - Oxford [Eng.]: Clarendon Press. Edited by Marina Sbisá & J. O. Urmson.
Scorekeeping in a language game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (1):339--359.
Scorekeeping in a Language Game.David Lewis - 1979 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 8 (3):339.
Speech acts and unspeakable acts.Rae Langton - 1993 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (4):293-330.

View all 16 references / Add more references