Epithets and Attitudes
This chapter explores the idea that the performative and expressive components of our thought and talk may push talk and thought, which might otherwise be evaluated as true or false, to a place where truth is just the wrong dimension of evaluation. The use of racial and ethnic slurs as well as other words are considered, whose primary purpose seems to be to hurt, to menace, to subjugate. It is argued that whether two people express the same thought with a sentence is something which turns as much upon the interests of and social pressures upon the person asking whether the thoughts are the same, as it turns on facts independent of the situation in which we ask whether what one person says or thinks is the same as what another person does. For that matter, whether a thought is true or false can be as much a matter of the context in which it is asked: Is that true? as it is of how things are independently of the asking.
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