David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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If, as many suppose, pornography changes people, a question arises as to how.1 One answer to this question offers a grand and noble vision. Inspired by the idea that pornography is speech, and inspired by a certain liberal ideal about the point of speech in political life, some theorists say that pornography contributes to that liberal ideal: pornography, even at its most violent and misogynistic, and even at its most harmful, is political speech that aims to express certain views about the good life, 2aims to persuade its consumers of a certain political point of view—and to some extent succeeds in persuading them. Ronald Dworkin suggests that the pornographer contributes to the ‘moral environment, by expressing his political or social convictions or tastes or prejudices informally’, that pornography ‘seeks to deliver’ a ‘message’ , that it reflects the ‘opinion’ that ‘women are submissive, or enjoy being dominated, or should be treated as if they did’, that it is comparable to speech ‘advocating that women occupy inferior roles’.3 Pornography on this view is political speech that aims to persuade its listeners of the truth of certain ideas about women, and of course ‘the government must leave to the people the evaluation of ideas’.4 Another answer offers a vision that is not grand and noble, but thoroughly reductive. Pornography is not politically persuasive speech, but speech that works by a process of psychological conditioning. This view seems common enough in the social science literature. Consider, for example, this description of an early experiment, from a time that pre-dates contemporary political debate.
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