PHIL 90Y - What's Bad about Bad Language?

This course investigates philosophical issues that arise from various sorts of bad language expressive vulgarities, slurs and pejoratives, slang & dialect, and so on while drawing on empirical/analytical work from numerous other disciplines (e.g., cognitive science, socio-linguistics, law). Two broad questions that guide our inquiry: (a) how should the nature of such-and-such linguistic form or speech act be understood, and (b) is there any distinctive wrong that is directly connected to that form or act? The first question is a concern of philosophy of language and the second is one of linguistic ethics. In light of these overarching questions, each week we will examine and assess work about specific forms of language which are generally considered bad. Note: Subject matter in this course includes racial, ethnic, and gender identity slurs, vulgar and swear language, and more. If you anticipate that this content will cause you acute distress, please confer with the instructor prior to enrolling. Note that it is not the instructor's practice to warn students about the content of individual lesson plans or to limit class discussion as sensitivity of topic may vary from student to student.
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