Institut Jean Nicod

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8 février 2013 : Robert May (University of California)

Vendredi 8 février 2013 de 11h à 13h
Institut Jean-Nicod, ENS, 29, rue d’Ulm75005 Paris, Salle de réunion, RDC.

Robert MAY (University of California, Davis) Site

Moral and Semantic Innocence

Christopher Hom (University of California, Irvine)
Robert May (University of California

Abstract :

Moral innocence is the circumstance that facts like that no Jews are kikes, that there are no kikes, but that there are Jews obtain.
Semantic innocence is the truth-conditional reflection of moral innocence ; it is the circumstance that the corresponding sentences “No Jews are kikes”, “There are no kikes” and “There are Jews” are jointly true. Our goal in this paper is to explore moral innocence from the perspective of semantic innocence, and then defend it from moral corruption. We present an account of the meanings of pejorative terms and the truth-conditions of sentences that contain them, based on the contention that pejorative terms have empty extensions, and explore the corresponding semantic knowledge, such that competent, rational speaker of a language can know the meaning of a pejorative without being committed to, or even complicit with, racist attitudes. Our analysis rests upon an articulation of pejorative words as the superficial realization of underlyingly complex lexical forms, and their connection to certain, a priori, moral facts. We discuss the contrast of semantic innocence with identity-expressivism, the view that pairs like “kike” and “Jew” do not differ in their truth-conditional contributions.