Group 5: Politics of Language Use, Social Epistemology and Ethical Perspectives
Thursday 10th of December 2020
Tasneem Alsayyed, University of Waterloo
‘Hermeneutical Impasses and Heterogeneity in Marginalized Groups’
Advocates of the movement World Hijab Day (WHD) emphasize the hijab’s ability to function as something political, feminist or empowering. However, proponents of the opposing movement, No Hijab Day (NHD), emphasize the exact opposite; they emphasize the hijab’s ability to function as something disempowering and anti-feminist. In looking at debates between the two movements, or indeed, most debates on the hijab that feature something along the lines of these two opposing perspectives, one quickly realizes how differing the preferences and values presented by either side actually are. Importantly, and despite the disagreement, both groups are interested in protecting the rights of girls/women in the global Islamic community. Hence, the lack of understanding between them, and consequently, the lack of meaningful solidarity, creates an obstacle for both parties.
This discussion provides an analysis of the hermeneutical impasse that occurs between WHD and NHD advocates. I argue that a new type of hermeneutical impasse, the 3rd party impasse, is required to capture the case of WHD-NHD. I begin with a description of Luvell Anderson’s 4 types of hermeneutical impasses, highlighting the three main features that characterize a type 4 hermeneutical impasse. These three features are unilateral prejudice, unilateral wilful/unwilful hermeneutical ignorance, and unilateral truth-tracking. In section two, I introduce both movements, WHD and NHD. In section three, I demonstrate that WHD-NHD differs from type 4 on account of its bilateral, as opposed to unilateral, features. In section 4, I introduce a fifth hermeneutical impasse, the 3rd party impasse, which captures the bilateral features of WHD-NHD, along with an additional feature, the bilateral potential for contributory injustice. Lastly, in section 5, I examine statements from both movements for potential contributory injustice to further show that the 3rd party impasse captures the case of WHD-NHD.
Shervin MirzaeiGhazi, University of Manchester
‘On the non-existence of private and third-person blame’
In recent years a strand of accounts of blame have been developed that can be called conversational/communicative (McKenna (2012), Fricker (2016)). These theories focus on the expressive (or conversational) function that blame must play. Although second-person expression plays a central role in conversational theories, however, they tend to preserve the possibility of other kinds of blame—unexpressed and third-person—that do not involve it. For example, Miranda Fricker (2016) introduces a paradigm case for blame—‘Communicative Blame’—and make sense of other cases as derivative. McKenna (2012) also claims “it's overt blame that is more fundamental, not private blame” (175) and private blame has to be explained with reference to overt blame.
One reason for following this approach is maybe due to widespread belief that what we call third-person and unexpressed blame are, in fact, instances of blame, and an adequate theory of blame has to include them also. After all, it would seem easy to think about occasions when two people blame an absent wrongdoer (third-person blame) or when we blame someone in our heart and do not express it to her (unexpressed blame). Here, Fricker and McKenna follow the lead of some emotional or conative accounts, according to which, expression is not even necessary for blaming others, and being subject to reactive attitudes is enough (Sher (2006), Wallace (1994), Watson (1996)).
I will argue, however, that conversational accounts should abandon the assumption that there are such things as ‘private and third blame’. Firstly, these cases do not fit easily in a conversational account, and insistence on preserving them undermines the conversational function of blame. Secondly, in this way, these accounts conflate blame with other practices— such as condemnation—and also cannot differentiate between blame and judgment of blameworthiness.
After showing this, I will consider two interrelated practices, namely punishment (Duff 2001) and forgiveness (Corlett 2013). Duff’s and Corlett’s accounts fit nicely with conversational accounts of blame, and I sketch how blame, punishment and forgiveness might fit together into a unified account of what I shall call ‘sanctioning behaviour’. This provides an additional reason to deny the existence of private and third-person blame, since the other forms of sanctioning behaviour – punishment and forgiveness – clearly cannot be private: nobody can be punished or (on Corlett’s account) forgiven privately.
Tomasz Zyglewicz & Shannon Brick, City University of New York (CUNY)
‘When is Reappropriation Appropriate? ‘Gossip’ as a Case Study’
It has been recently suggested that gossip is more than just idle talk (Rysman 1977; Horodowich 2005; Alfano and Robinson 2017; Adkins 2017). In particular, authors working within feminist epistemology have argued that is a relatively safe way for members of marginalized groups to resist the norms and values of their oppressors, as well as circulate potentially protective information (“PPI”). In this paper we oppose the idea of calling such subversive exchanges “gossip.” Our case consists of a descriptive claim and a normative claim.
The descriptive claim is that the folk are not inclined to classify an utterance about an absentee as gossip when it conveys PPI. We substantiate this claim by presenting results of an experiment devised specifically to test it. We presented each of the participants with one of the four vignettes in which two feminine presenting characters talk about an absent masculine presenting colleague. In three of them the utterance conveys PPI (“I heard that Ron has a history of inappropriately touching his female colleagues”), whereas the fourth one is more naturally construed as an in instance of idle talk (“I heard that Ron is dating a supermodel”). Our participants were significantly more inclined to describe the latter vignette as an instance of gossip.
The normative claim, in turn, is that utterances conveying PPI should not be labeled as “gossip”. First, given our experimental findings, we point at the practical difficulties of securing the uptake of the revised concept of gossip put forward by such authors as Adkins (2017) and Alfano and Robinson (2017). Second, and more importantly, we argue that even if these difficulties could be bypassed, the successful reclamation would lead to a normative distortion, which – in the long run – would do a disservice to the marginalized groups that are supposed to benefit from the proposed reappropriation attempt (cf. Maitra 2018).
We use our argument for the normative claim to mount a more general account of when it is and is not appropriate to re-appropriate stigmatizing terms. It is argued that an adequate theory of reappropriation has to (i) explain why slurs are most apt for reappropriation, while (ii) leaving the conceptual space for reappropriation of other kinds of terms. We submit that the following criterion does just the job:
World of our dreams criterion [WODC]. A stigmatizing term T is apt for reappropriation if there is no use for the pejorative use of T in the world envisaged by the group targeted by T.
According to WODC, re-appropriability is sensitive to the particular vision of the world one endorses. It follows that if X and Y are both stigmatized by a term T, T may be re-appropriable for X but not re-appropriable for Y, and the other way around. One practical consequence is that if X and Y want to join forces against a common oppressor, it may oftentimes be prudent for them to choose a tactic different than reclamation.