Southern Journal of Philosophy 56 (S1):116-144 (2018)

Lynne Tirrell
University of Connecticut
Toxic speech inflicts individual and group harm, damaging the social fabric upon which we all depend. To understand and combat the harms of toxic speech, philosophers can learn from epidemiology, while epidemiologists can benefit from lessons of philosophy of language. In medicine and public health, research into remedies for toxins pushes in two directions: individual protections (personal actions, avoidances, preventive or reparative tonics) and collective action (specific policies or widespread “inoculations” through which we seek herd immunity). This paper is the beginning of a project of identifying potential inoculations and antidotes to toxic speech. The essay brings a social practice theory of language, with special reliance on language‐games and inferential roles, into conversation with concepts from the study of biologic toxins. Some speech harms are acute while others are chronic and insidious; they have different methods of delivery, come in variable doses, and not everyone is equally susceptible to the power to harm. I argue that of the many kinds of challenges we might issue against toxic speech, challenging its expressive commitments has the greatest potential to stop the damage. The essay explores the different sorts of protections that inoculations and antidotes might offer against discursive toxins and sketches how to imagine these in the practices that govern our speech. The paper does not make policy recommendations, but an epidemiology of discursive toxicity reveals several kinds of “more speech” that might fight against “bad speech.”
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DOI 10.1111/sjp.12297
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References found in this work BETA

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Citations of this work BETA

Discursive Epidemiology: Two Models.Lynne Tirrell - 2021 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 95 (1):115-142.
Can 'More Speech' Counter Ignorant Speech?Maxime Charles Lepoutre - 2019 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 16 (3).

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