“Two Varieties of Appropriation and the Pragmatic Theory of Slurs”
By Ben Lennertz (Western Kentucky, Philosophy)
Date: Wednesday, 3rd January, 2018
Abstract: Most theorists accept that slurs are derogatory and their use causes warranted offense. However, there are situations in which uses of slurs are neither derogatory nor offensive. The process that allows for this is called appropriation or reclamation. There are two sorts of appropriation – language-wide appropriation, where any speaker of the language can use a term without derogating or causing warranted offense, and in-group appropriation, where only members of the group targeted by the slur can do so. In this presentation, I highlight this distinction and show how it causes trouble for an account of slurs that is growing in popularity – a pragmatic account where the offense caused by the use of a slur arises primarily because of the speaker’s choice to use it rather than an inoffensive neutral counterpart (as in Bolinger 2017). I conclude by offering suggestions for how a theory of slurs might explain the two sorts of appropriation.