Philosophy Videos

Why Race & Gender Slurs are Hard to Answer

Milton urged us to let Truth and Falsehood grapple, for Truth will never be 'put to the worse, in a free and open encounter'. Can bad speech always be fought with good? Defenders of free speech sometimes express that hope. But there can be constraints on our power to talk back, and correspondingly, the power of Truth to triumph. Race and gender slurs present distinctive challenges, together with related phenomena of hate speech and propaganda. David Lewis's account of the dynamics of conversation helps shed light on their workings, showing how they present structural handicaps, forcing counter-speakers to grapple with their hands tied.

This, 2013 Barry Taylor and David Lewis Philosophy Lecture, is presented by Professor Rae Langton of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Professor Langton’s work spans the history of philosophy, ethics, political philosophy, metaphysics, and feminist philosophy. She is the author of Kantian Humility: Our Ignorance of Things in Themselves (Oxford, 1998) and Sexual Solipsism: Philosophical Essays on Pornography and Objectification (Oxford 2009), as well as numerous articles. She has previously held academic positions at Monash, ANU, Sheffield, and Edinburgh and will be taking up a professorship at the University of Cambridge later this year. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013.