Sam Berstler (Princeton): The Geometry of Open Secrets
“There was no massacre, and the bastards got what they deserved.”
-Apocryphal US army spokesperson, quoted in Cohen (2001: 103)
Abstract. There is an elephant in a crowded living room. A family in the living room studiously ignores the elephant. One man in the corner shouts, “There is an elephant right here!” But nothing changes. The elephant in the living room is what I will call an open secret. When p is an open secret, a series of interlocking social norms govern how we may presuppose, assert, discuss, or deliberate about p. I offer an analysis—to my knowledge, the first such analysis in analytic philosophy—of open secrets. Such an account has consequences for our theories of the common ground; assertions and bald-faced lies; and moral address under non-ideal conditions.
Cohen, Stanley. States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering. Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2001.