Institut Jean Nicod

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MAY Robert

Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Linguistics, University of California, Davis

theoretical linguistics, philosophy of language, and philosophy of logic



Parrain au sein de l’Institut

François Recanati

Équipe d’accueil





Professeur invité par le Collège de France du 21 au 28 juin 2024.


Ideology and Propaganda (1)

21 juin 2024 à 17h

Salle 2, Site Marcelin Berthelot

The first lecture will develop the notion of ideologies as folk scientific theories, the institutionalization of those ideologies, and how propaganda supports the principles and values of ideologies so construed through aesthetic and linguistic expression. The central thesis we will explore is that propaganda derives its power of persuasion by expressing ideological content, which may be semantically asserted or pragmatically implied. Propaganda as ideological language may be used approvingly to signal virtue, or pejoratively, to signal vice ; which it is will depend upon the normative value of the ideological principle that is expressed. This language will be particularly evocative when those values pertain to moral worth, to those who have it, and to those who do not, as per the ideology.


Ideology and Propaganda (2)

28 juin 2024 à 17h

Salle 2, Site Marcelin Berthelot

In the second lecture, we turn to an application of the account of propaganda, ideological words that abstractly encapsulate core values of an ideology as their meaning. The focus will be on pejorative words – racist, sexist, homophobic, religious epithets, and so on. These words, we argue, are expressions of a type of defective ideology ; they express a norm that people are morally unworthy just because they are black, female, gay, Jewish, etc, and thus tolerating oppression and discrimination. But such norms are unjustified : No one is morally unworthy solely on the basis of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. The norms justifying racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-semitism, and the like are irrevocably morally flawed ; they fail to accurately represent the moral fabric of the world, and accordingly, pejorative words are a failed form of language : Given that they express these norms as their meanings, they will, by necessity, have no reference.