Fighting for Words: I. Speech Acts and Generics

Oct 24, 2012, 4:30 pm6:30 pm
219 Aaron Burr Hall
Event Description

The first of three lectures to be given the week of Oct. 22-26.

Fighting for Words
Milton urged us to let Truth and Falsehood grapple, for Truth will never be 'put to the worse, in a free and open encounter'. Can bad speech always be fought with good? Free speech doctrine is sometimes premised on that hope. But there can be structural, as well as material, constraints on a speaker's capacity to fight back. It is a familiar idea that speech acts may disabled in ways more subtle than gagging. In these lectures we'll extend this inquiry in directions that deserve more attention, illustrated by the dynamics of hate speech, propaganda, epithets, quotation, and social generics. Such speech acts can present structural handicaps, forcing counter-speakers to grapple with their hands tied.