Busting the Ghost of Neutral Counterparts

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


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.

Similar books and articles

Do Racists Speak Truly? On the Truth‐Conditional Content of Slurs.Ralph DiFranco - 2015 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 4 (1):28-37.
"Words Gone Sour?".Stavroula Glezakos - 2012 - In Bill Kabasenche, Michael O'Rourke & Matthew Slater (eds.), Reference and Referring: Topics in Contemporary Philosophy, Volume 10. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 385-405.
Slurs and the Type-Token Distinction of Their Derogatory Force.Chang Liu - 2019 - Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio 13 (2):63-72.
Semantic contestations and the meaning of politically significant terms.Deborah Mühlebach - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (8):788-817.
Practices of Slur Use.Leopold Hess - 2020 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 97 (1):86-105.
What Bigots Do Say: A Reply to DiFranco.Ramiro Caso & Nicolás Lo Guercio - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (4):265-274.
Contested Slurs.Renée Jorgensen Bolinger - 2020 - Grazer Philosophische Studien 97 (1):11-30.
Loaded Words and Expressive Words.Robin Jeshion - 2017 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 17 (2):111-130.
Gendered Slurs.Lauren Ashwell - 2016 - Social Theory and Practice 42 (2):228-239.


Added to PP

2,293 (#3,463)

6 months
403 (#4,104)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Jen Foster
University of Southern California

Citations of this work

Add more citations

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.

View all 41 references / Add more references