Conservatives and racists: Inferential role semantics and pejoratives

Philosophia 36 (3):375-388 (2008)
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Abstract

According to inferential role semantics, for any given expression to possess a particular meaning one must be disposed to make or, alternatively, acknowledge as correct certain inferential transitions involving it. As Williamson points out, pejoratives such as ‘Boche’ seem to provide a counter-example to IRS. Many speakers are neither disposed to use such expressions nor consider it proper to do so. But it does not follow, as IRS appears to entail, that such speakers do not understand pejoratives or that they lack meaning. In this paper, I examine recent responses to this problem by Boghossian and Brandom and argue that their proposed construal of the kind of inferential rules governing a pejorative such as ‘Boche’ is to be ruled out on the grounds that it is non-conservative. I defend the appeal to conservatism in this instance against criticism and, in doing so, propose an alternative approach to pejoratives on behalf of IRS that resolves the problem Williamson poses

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Daniel Whiting
University of Southampton

Citations of this work

The semantics of slurs: A refutation of coreferentialism.Adam M. Croom - 2015 - Ampersand: An International Journal of General and Applied Linguistics 2:30-38.
Meaning and Emotion: The Extended Gricean Model and What Emotional Signs Mean.Constant Bonard - 2021 - Dissertation, University of Geneva and University of Antwerp

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References found in this work

The logical basis of metaphysics.Michael Dummett - 1991 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Holism: A Shopper's Guide.Jerry A. Fodor & Ernest Lepore - 1992 - Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell. Edited by Ernest LePore.

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