Un-Ringing the Bell: McGowan on Oppressive Speech and The Asymmetric Pliability of Conversations

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (3):555-575 (2013)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Abstract
In recent work Mary Kate McGowan presents an account of oppressive speech inspired by David Lewis's analysis of conversational kinematics. Speech can effect identity-based oppression, she argues, by altering 'the conversational score', which is to say, roughly, that it can introduce presuppositions and expectations into a conversation, and thus determine what sort of subsequent conversational 'moves' are apt, correct, felicitous, etc., in a manner that oppresses members of a certain group (e.g. because the suppositions and expectations derogate or demean members of that group). In keeping with the Lewisian picture, McGowan stresses the asymmetric pliability of conversational scores. She argues that it is easier to introduce (for example) sexist presuppositions and expectations into a conversation than it is to remove them. Responding to a sexist remark, she thus suggests, is like trying to "unring a bell". I begin by situating McGowan's work in the wider literature on speech and social hierarchy, and explaining how her account of oppressive speech improves upon the work of others in its explication of the relationship between individuals' verbal conduct and structurally oppressive social arrangements. I then propose an explanation and supportive elaboration of McGowan's claims about the asymmetric pliability of conversations involving identity-oppressive speech. Rather than regarding such asymmetry as a sui generis phenomenon, I show how we can understand it as a consequence of a more general asymmetry between making things salient and un-salient in speech, and I show how this asymmetry also operates in various cases that interested Lewis.
Reprint years
2013
ISBN(s)
PhilPapers/Archive ID
SIMUTB
Revision history
Archival date: 2016-08-28
View upload history
References found in this work BETA

View all 18 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Added to PP index
2012-07-31

Total views
171 ( #16,935 of 39,912 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
64 ( #7,260 of 39,912 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.