A small but growing literature in philosophy is devoted to the understanding of a seemingly new communicative action that came with the internet, and with Twitter in particular: the retweet. The spur for this literature is a kind of puzzle in public discourse: on the one hand, there is a tendency to hold people responsible for their retweets, and to blame them for retweeting material considered offensive or otherwise inappropriate. On the other hand, there is a widely shared, if not universally-recognized feeling that, as the well-known disclaimer has it, "A retweet is not an endorsement." But if a retweet is not an endorsement, what is it? And what is wrong with retweeting offensive or misleading tweets? What sort of responsibility do people have for their retweets? Here, we put forward the view that bare, uncommented retweets are best understood along the lines of bare locutionary acts---figuring into various forms of illocution, but being more basic than any of those and, thereby, not directly the appropriate subject of norms. If this is right, the questions we then need to ask are: is this an acceptable way for things to be in the age of social media, in terms of its effects on our collective epistemic environment? If not, then (i) what should we want retweeting to be like and (ii) how can we plausibly nudge things in that direction?
P.S. Jessica Pepp (Uppsala) and Eliot Michaelson (KCL) will give the talk and Q&A together with Rachel Sterken (HKU).
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Jowett Society Organising Committee: Stephanie (Xiaoyi Lu) | Jowett Society Website