PHIL 5397: Graduate Seminar: Toxic Speech

Fall 2018.  This is a course in language and politics, seeking to understand how discursive norms and practices shape individuals, society, even who lives and who dies. The 20th century was a period of notable genocides around the world: Armenia, the Holocaust, Holodomor (Ukrainians), Nanking, Cambodia, East Timor, Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur, the Rohingya and more.  The 21st century has seen a rise in what Rwandans call “divisionist ideology,” with nationalism and xenophobia becoming increasingly common. Language alone does not create or enact genocide, but studying the role of changing discursive practices in a society that turns genocidal can teach us how everyday practices of speaking about ourselves and others might contribute to enabling the participation of ordinary people in a genocide.

Analyses of speech and harm tend to focus on hate speech, examining how hurled epithets and casual uses of derogatory terms and slurs feed oppressive systems. While studying this literature, we’ll also take a wider angle on the ways speech can be toxic and generate changes to ideology, practice, and action. We'll consider what sorts of remedies might be possible. The genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda 1994 will be our core (but not exclusive) case. Philosophy of language readings will include Wittgenstein, Austin, Sellars, Lewis, and Brandom, some work on metaphor and euphemisms (Tirrell, Camp), plus work on derogatory terms and slurs (Jeshion, Swanson, Camp, more), including my “Genocidal Language Games” and more recent work. In addition to survivor testimonies and articles about Rwanda, we’ll read Victor Klemperer’s The Language of the Third Reich, Jacques Semelin’s Purify and Destroy, and Jason Stanley’s How Propaganda Works. To end with hope, we’ll seek constructive remedies to the harmful effects of toxic speech, including challenging (Brandom), blocking (Langton), inoculation (Tirrell, McGuire), and look for clues to moral repair (Carse & Tirrell, Walker).

1107.H  Philosophy and Gender _Honors

3.00 credits. Prerequisites: No student may receive more than 6 credits for PHIL 1101, 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1106, 1107.

Topics concern social ethics and gender, such as gender equality and the impact of gender norms on individual freedom. Specific topics are examined in light of the intersections between gender and race, ethnicity, class, and sexual orientation. CA 1. CA 4.

MORE:  Gender is such a major organizing principle of society that engendered people often fail to notice its operation. This is a course on gender, with an emphasis on feminist philosophy. We will begin with some classic discussions that raise issues about the idea that sex and gender are rooted in biology, that women have distinct natures (from? from men). As we study gender, our emphasis will be on understanding intersecting nature of oppression in connection with crucial other forms of oppression, such as racism, homophobia, ageism, classism, etc. We will see how intersectionality is a crucial aspect of our lived reality. In trying to understand the various social forces that constitute oppression, we will also look for avenues of liberation for all people.

PHIL 1165W - Philosophy and Literature

Three credits. Prerequisite: ENGL 1010 or 1011 or 2011.

Philosophical problems raised by, and illuminated in, major works of literature. CA 1.

PHIL 2205 - Aesthetics

Three credits. Prerequisite: At least one of PHIL 110111021103110411051106, or 1107.

The fundamentals of aesthetics, including an analysis of aesthetic experience and judgment, and a study of aesthetic types, such as the beautiful, tragic, comic and sublime. Recent systematic and experimental findings in relation to major theories of the aesthetic experience. I teach this course with visual and performing arts in focus.

3220W. Philosophical Foundations of Human Rights

Also offered as: HRTS 3220W. 3.00 credits

Prerequisites: At least one of PHIL 1101, 1102, 1103, 1104, 1105, 1106, or 1107; ENGL 1010 or 1011 or 2011.

Ontology and epistemology of human rights investigated through contemporary and/or historical texts. Focus on possible grounds including dignity, autonomy, liberty, and welfare. Each term we will focus on special contemporary human rights concerns.  In this writing section, we learn to write advocacy pieces that combine attention to current events about human rights abuses, and philosophical justifications for appeals to human rights. Students write and peer-edit op-eds, and write two longer essays that dig deeper into the philosophical foundations.

3225W. Analysis and Ordinary Language

3.00 credits. Prerequisites: ENGL 1010 or 1011 or 2011; At least one from PHIL 2210, 2221 or 2222 .

An exploration of the power of ordinary language --in everyday life-- to shape social reality.We will read some 20th century classics including, including Austin, Grice, Lewis, as well as more recent figures including Brandom, McConnell-Ginet, and Beaver & Stanley. 

Why Study Philosophy?