Poststructuralism, behaviorism and the problem of hate speech

Philosophy and Social Criticism 29 (5):517-535 (2003)
In this paper, I propose that influential arguments of Jacques Derridas's and Judith Butler's rely on behaviorism and relativism, a reliance which has implications for, among other things, the issue of hate speech. I begin with a brief discussion of the philosophy of W. V. O. Quine, a thinker seldom discussed in relationship to continental poststructuralism. Quine is interesting because he explicitly defends an ontological relativism combined with linguistic behaviorism, the latter as influenced by B. F. Skinner and John Watson. I then show that Butler's and Derrida's theories demonstrate a similar yet unacknowledged lineage. I devote the final section of the paper to a discussion of hate speech, and the problematization of behaviorism and relativism it entails
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