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 (2012)

Stavroula Glezakos
Wake Forest University
In this paper, I highlight some important implications of a non-individualistic account of derogatory words. I do so by critically examining an intriguing claim of Jennifer Hornsby‘s: that derogatory words – words that, as she puts it, ―apply to people, and that are commonly understood to convey hatred and contempt‖ – are useless for us. In their stead, she maintains, we employ neutral counterparts: words ―that apply to the same people, but whose uses do not convey these things. I argue that Hornsby‘s distinctions – between derogatory words and neutral counterparts, and them (speakers who have use for the former) and us (who do not) – is not sustainable. I begin by considering examples that suggest that some of the words that some of us have use for are indeed derogatory. I then offer reasons for thinking that words that would presumably be identified as acceptable counterparts to derogatory words are not, in general, neutral.
Keywords derogatory words  race  language  meaning  offensive language  slurs  implicit bias
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