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Philosophy Speakers: 'Warm-Hearted' Uses of Slurring Words

Date & Time:
January 18, 2019 | 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
SS 1253
Robert Stainton, University of Western Ontario

About the Talk: Slurring words such as ‘chink’ and ‘spic’ have garnered a great deal of attention in recent literature. They pose problems for nearly every view about linguistic meaning. What’s more, they tie philosophy of language immediately to ethics/social philosophy.

This talk is about a fascinating way in which such words get used. To explain, though it is paradigmatically the case that the act of slurring involves the speaker expressing strong negative emotions towards a target group, there are cases where these feelings are either lacking or are even replaced with an outright positive attitude.

We present a range of examples of what we call “warm-hearted uses of slurring words”. Some are familiar; some are not. We then identify what unites them, in part by showing how a toy Expressivist theory of meaning falls short in the face of such uses. We end by describing all-too-briefly a radically different way of thinking about the meaning of slurring words – i.e., in terms of discourse register – which fits naturally with both paradigm and “warm-hearted” uses.

Authors: Justina Diaz-Legaspe and Robert J. Stainton

About the Speaker: Robert Stainton was introduced to Philosophy and Linguistics at York University's Glendon College. Graduating from there in 1988, he pursued doctoral studies in both areas at MIT, where he worked under Sylvain Bromberger, Noam Chomsky and James Higginbotham. In 1993, fresh out of graduate school, he took up his first academic position at Ottawa's Carleton University, where he eventually became Canada Research Chair in Cognitive Science. He has been at The University of Western Ontario since 2004, where he is presently Distinguished University Professor of Philosophy. In 2012 he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada.

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