PHIL 446 - Social and Political Philosophy of Language
Winter 2021, Section 001
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: Philosophy (PHIL)
Department: LSA Philosophy
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Waitlist Capacity:
Enforced Prerequisites:
One philosophy course, graduate standing, or permission of the instructor.
May not be repeated for credit.
Primary Instructor:


This course will use philosophy of language tools to address social and political questions, and also consider how these tools may need to be modified to answer the demands of social-political theorizing. We’ll try to understand how language use can be a site of injustice, in two different senses: some language users can exploit their social circumstances to harm others, while others are prevented from doing with their words what they should be able to do. Finally, we’ll discuss how linguistic injustice can be challenged and resisted. Here are some of the questions we will touch on during the semester:

  • Lying: What is it to tell a lie? What’s the difference between lying and other forms of (verbal) deception, such as misleading, or bullshitting? Is lying always wrong?
  • Testimony and testimonial injustice: What is it to tell someone something/testify to it? How do we gain knowledge from others’ testimony? How do attempts to testify fail, and how do these failures harm (and wrong) testifiers, and others?
  • Silencing: Can a speaker be silenced even when they’re able to utter words? How does silencing harm (and wrong) those who are silenced?
  • Slurs: What is a slur? What do slurs do – offend, derogate, dehumanize, etc. – and how do they do these things? Can slurs be appropriated? If so, when and by whom?
  • Linguistic oppression: Can language use control, manipulate, subordinate, oppress? If so, how does it do these things? How can these aspects of language use be challenged?
  • Language and the law: What is perjury? What’s a threat? What does a right to free speech protect, and should this right protect hateful speech?

Class Format:

Synchronous online seminar-style meetings


PHIL 446 - Social and Political Philosophy of Language
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
TuTh 10:00AM - 11:30AM

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