Hate Speech

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2022)
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Abstract

Hate speech is a concept that many people find intuitively easy to grasp, while at the same time many others deny it is even a coherent concept. A majority of developed, democratic nations have enacted hate speech legislation—with the contemporary United States being a notable outlier—and so implicitly maintain that it is coherent, and that its conceptual lines can be drawn distinctly enough. Nonetheless, the concept of hate speech does indeed raise many difficult questions: What does the ‘hate’ in hate speech refer to? Can hate speech be directed at dominant groups, or is it by definition targeted at oppressed or marginalized communities? Is hate speech always ‘speech’? What is the harm or harms of hate speech? And, perhaps most challenging of all, what can or should be done to counteract hate speech? In part because of these complexities, hate speech has spawned a vast and interdisciplinary literature. Legal scholars, philosophers, sociologists, anthropologists, political theorists, historians, and other academics have each approached the topic with exceeding interest. In this current article, however, we cannot hope to cover how these many disciplines have engaged with the concept of hate speech. Here, we will focus most explicitly on how hate speech has been taken up within philosophy, with particular emphasis on issues such as: how to define hate speech; what are the plausible harms of hate speech; how an account of hate speech might include both overt expressions of hate (e.g., the vitriolic use of slurs) as well as more covert, implicit utterances (e.g., dogwhistles); the relationship between hate speech and silencing; and what might we do to counteract hate speech.

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Author Profiles

Luvell Anderson
Syracuse University
Michael Randall Barnes
Australian National University

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References found in this work

Alief and Belief.Tamar Szabó Gendler - 2008 - Journal of Philosophy 105 (10):634-663.
Making it Explicit.Isaac Levi & Robert B. Brandom - 1996 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (3):145.

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