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The Politics of Language: On Non-Ideal Theory of Meaning

jaosn stanley
Tuesday, December 15, 2020, 3:45 pm – 5:10 pm


The Politics of Language: On Non-Ideal Theory of Meaning (with David Beaver) 

Until recently, the focus in the Anglo-American theory of meaning was largely, and even at times exclusively, on the use of speech to convey information. Centering this use of speech involved narrowing the evidence base of the theory of meaning via idealizations, to filter out non-informational uses of speech. What if we drop these idealizations, and consider uses of speech that clearly are more in the service of creating social groups, than sharing information? In this talk, from a forthcoming book with David Beaver, I argue for abandoning these idealizations, by considering political uses of speech as central. Broadening the uses of speech to be considered as evidence in philosophy of language leads us to a reformulation of central concepts of the theory of meaning, which allow for a better understanding of the nature and purpose of speech. If there is time, I will draw some consequences for topics such as slurs and dog whistles.