Busting the Ghost of Neutral Counterparts

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 10 (42):1187-1242 (2023)
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Abstract

Slurs have been standardly assumed to bear a very direct, very distinctive semantic relationship to what philosophers have called “neutral counterpart” terms. I argue that this is mistaken: the general relationship between paradigmatic slurs and their “neutral counterparts” should be assumed to be the same one that obtains between ‘chick flick’ and ‘romantic comedy’, as well a huge number of other more prosaic pairs of derogatory and “less derogatory” expressions. The most plausible general relationship between these latter expressions — and thus, I argue, between paradigmatic slurs and “neutral counterpart” terms — is one of overlap in presumed extension, grounded in overlap in associated stereotypes. The resulting framework has the advantages of being simple, unified, and, unlike its orthodox rivals, neatly accommodating of a much wider range of data than has previously been considered. More importantly, it positions us to better understand, identify, and confront the insidious mechanisms of ordinary bigotry.

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Jen Foster
University of Southern California

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References found in this work

Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny.Kate Manne - 2017 - Oxford University Press.
The Social Life of Slurs.Geoffrey Nunberg - 2018 - In Daniel Fogal, Daniel W. Harris & Matt Moss (eds.), New Work on Speech Acts. Oxford University Press.
When Truth Gives Out.Mark Richard - 2008 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.

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