The Jowett Society (Friday - Week 8, MT19)

Philosophical Society

The talk concerns the question of how slurs manage to derogate the members of a group. Firstly, it will be argued that neither (genuinely) semantic nor pragmatic views can adequately account for the phenomenon in question. Secondly, an intermediate conventional implicature view will be developed that integrates two separate claims found in the literature, namely (i) Bach’s (forthcoming) claim that slurs contribute their derogative content in the manner of asides and (ii) Potts’s (2005) claim that asides conventionally implicate their content. The resulting view is a non-expressivist variant of a conventional implicature view of slurs: derogation performed by using a slur results from conveying descriptive content rather than from expressing a derogative attitude toward the target group. It is argued that this is a decisive advantage of the proposed view, since it can account for features of slurs that are mysterious from an expressivist point of view.


After the talks all are invited to socialise and continue discussion over drinks in the Ryle Room. If you would like to join for dinner after the drinks reception, please email