Author: Malley, Mary

Dorit Bar-On: “How to do things with nonwords” (Biology & Philosophy)

Check out Dorit Bar-On's recent article in Biology & Philosophy, "How to do things with nonwords: pragmatics, biosemantics, and origins of language in animal communication." This article features Ruth Millikan’s biosemantic framework, and benefited from several ECOM-based collaborations.

***Abstract***

Recent discussions of animal communication and the evolution of language have advocated adopting a ‘pragmatics-first’ approach, according to which “a more productive framework” for primate communication research should be “pragmatics, the field of linguistics that examines the role of context in shaping the meaning of linguistic utterances” (Wheeler and Fischer, Evol Anthropol 21:195–205, 2012: 203). After distinguishing two different conceptions of pragmatics that advocates of the pragmatics-first approach have implicitly relied on (one Carnapian, the other Gricean), I argue that neither conception adequately serves the purposes of pragmatics-first approaches to the origins of human linguistic communication. My main aim in this paper is to motivate–and begin to articulate–an intermediary conception whose scope is narrower than Carnapian pragmatics but broader than Gricean pragmatics. To do so, I first spell out what I take to be the key insight offered by proponents of the Gricean approach concerning the emergence of linguistic communication, namely, its being communication ‘from a psychological point of view’ (Tomasello, Origins of human communication, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 2008). I then develop this insight using key elements from the anti-Gricean ‘biosemantic’ account of linguistic communication due to Ruth Millikan (Millikan, Language, thought, and other biological categories: New foundations for realism, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1984, Millikan, Tomberlin (ed), Philosophical Perspectives 9, Ridgeview Publishing, Atascedero CA, 1995, Millikan R (2006) Varieties of Meaning. Mass.: The MIT Press (paperback edition), Cambridge, Millikan, Beyond concepts: unicepts, language, and natural information, Oxford University Press, Oxford UK, 2017, and elsewhere). I argue that the intermediary pragmatics-first approach that I propose, which draws on both Gricean and Millikanian resources, would be better equipped to serve the purposes of those who search for potential precursors of human linguistic communication in animal communication.

Tracy Llanera: “The Misogyny Paradox and the Alt-Right” Accepted by Hypatia

Assistant Professor Tracy Llanera's article, "The Misogyny Paradox and the Alt-right," has been accepted for publication in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.

***ABSTRACT***

This essay offers a philosophical analysis of the misogyny experienced by women in the alternative right (alt-right) movement. I argue that this misogyny takes on a paradoxical form: the better alt-right women propagandists promote hate, the greater hostility they experience from their fellow racists and critics; the more submissive women alt-right members become, the harsher the impact of misogyny on them. I develop this argument in four parts. Part I introduces the alt-right movement and the presumed role of white women in racist hate groups. Using Louise Richardson-Self's work on social imaginaries, I explain how dominant images in racist propaganda could be used as resources for exploring the self-conception of racist white women. Part II offers a description of three dominant images in the racist social imaginary: the goddess/victim, wife and mother, and the female activist. These images accord white women a revered status in virtue of their gendered subordination to white men and the white cause. I present the white power barbie and the tradwife as the contemporary iterations of these social images in the alt-right movement. Part III explores the misogyny paradox as experienced by alt-right women. Beginning with a description of gender relations in the racist patriarchy, I show how alt-right women could be seen as both misogynists and victims of misogyny; in other words, as perpetrators and recipients of misogynist harms. It then moves to a twofold discussion of misogyny through the lens of contemporary feminist philosophy. The first section engages Kate Manne’s writings on the dynamics of misogyny to explain hostility against women propagandists, while the second section discusses Manon Garcia’s Beauvoirian argument of the concept of submission to explain the misogyny hurled against conformist women. Part IV briefly reflects on the absurdity of the alt-right’s dependence on women’s economic labor, a feature that may make the movement vulnerable to political intervention.

Kensuke Ito: “Truth and Falsity in Communication: Assertion, Denial, and Interpretation”

Check out alum Kensuke Ito's forthcoming article in Erkenntnis, "Truth and Falsity in Communication: Assertion, Denial, and Interpretation." The abstract may be found here.

***ABSTRACT***

Our linguistic communication is, in part, the exchange of truths. It is an empirical fact that in daily conversation we aim at truths, not falsehoods. This fact may lead us to assume that ordinary, assertion-based communication is the only possible communicative system for truth-apt information exchange, or at least has priority over any alternatives. This assumption is underwritten in three traditional doctrines: that assertion is a basic notion, in terms of which we define denial; that to predicate truth of a sentence is to assert the content it expresses; and that one should, in the context of radical interpretation, try to maximize the truth of what foreigners believe or utter. However, I challenge this assumption via a thought experiment: imagine a language game in which everyone aims to exchange only falsehoods. I argue that information exchange is possible in this game, and so truth-guided communication and falsity-guided communication are conceptually on a par. As a consequence, we should reject the three doctrines, based as they are on the conceptual priority of assertion-based communication.

Lewis Gordon: The Crime Without a Name

Can new language reshape our understanding of the past and expand the possibilities of the future? Barrett Holmes Pitner seeks better words to reframe discussions about race and culture and to change the way we understand our diverse and rapidly evolving political climate. In his new book, he examines ethnocide in America, the systematic erasure of a people's ancestral culture, and its particular impacts on Black Americans, who have endured that erasure for generations. A compelling analysis of our nation's ethnocidal foundation, The Crime Without a Name posits that activating this concept within our discourse, as we continue to reckon with our wrongs, can help sustain the richness of our diverse cultures in perpetuity.

Holmes speaks with Lewis R. Gordon about the historical origins of ethnocide in the U.S., and examines the personal lived consequences of existing within an ongoing erasure—and how to combat it.

Tracy Llanera and Nicholas Smith: Egotism in Higher Education

Check out Tracy Llanera and Nicholas Smith's recent essay, "Egotism in Higher Education," in the Cardiff University blog, Open for Debate. This essay is based on the chapter "A Culture of Egotism: Rorty and Higher Education," The Promise of the University: Reclaiming Humanity, Humility, and Hope, ed.  Áine Mahon, forthcoming with Springer.

***Excerpt***

Universities, ideally speaking, can be places that cultivate the process of self-growth. As the pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty has put it, studying in universities allows students to undergo ‘self-enlargement’. Self-enlargement is Rorty’s take on what his fellow pragmatist and educationalist John Dewey called ‘growth’. Growth as self-enlargement occurs in two main ways: through projects of self-creation and widening relations of solidarity. Self-creation involves the making of oneself anew and the adoption for oneself of a ‘final vocabulary’, or a language that expresses one’s commitments, self-projects, and understanding and relationship with others and the world. Widening solidarity involves expanding the group to which one feels some belonging. At the heart of both are encounters with real or imaginary people, and these encounters reveal the limits and narrowness of one’s previous sense of self. In taking knowingness and self-satisfaction as its enemies, a culture of self-enlargement is the opposite of a culture of egotism.

Tracy Llanera: Women, the Alt-right and the Liberal Centre

Why do women join white nationalist and other far-right movements? Misogyny is rampant on the alt-right, along with the notion that women's primary role is to be wives and child-bearers. But the liberal centre can be an ambivalent place for women too. Feminism was founded on the ideal of equality, and on the belief that women should be treated as individuals rather than undifferentiated members of a subordinate class. But have these liberal humanist ideals of of equality and individual autonomy outgrown their usefulness?

Dr. Tracy Llanera [UConn and University of Notre Dame Australia]  and Dr. Louise Richardson-Self [University of Tasmania] are featured in this episode titled "Women, the alt-right and the liberal centre" on The Philosopher's Zone. The radio broadcast in Australia [ABC Radio National] was Sunday August 1 at 5.30 pm on ABC RN, repeated the following Sunday August 8 at 5.30 am.

This interview features philosophical work that will be discussed in this free public panel on Resentment, Guilt, and Shame under Patriarchy on Aug 9, 2021 (Mon).

Tracy Llanera: Resentment, Guilt, and Shame Under Patriarchy Panel

Public Panel: Resentment, Guilt, and Shame Under Patriarchy. An event organised by the University of Tasmania under ARC project DE 190100719 Hate Speech Against Women Online: Concepts and Countermeasures.

Assistant Professor Tracy Llanera will be participating in a public panel on resentment, guilt, and shame under patriarchy live on Zoom on August 9, 2021.

The event will begin with three short talks:

  • Dr Louise Richardson-Self (UTAS) — “Affirmative Action, Gender, and Merit”
  • Dr Tracy Llanera (UNDA/UConn) — “Misogyny, Feminism, and the Alt-Right“
  • Dr Filipa Melo Lopes (Edinburgh) — “What Do Incels Want? Explaining Incel Violence Using Beauvoirian Otherness“

These will be followed by a short response from Dr Noelle Leslie Dela Cruz (DLSU) and then a live Q&A with the Audience.

Then stay for Dr Kate Manne (Cornell)'s keynote talk, “What is Gaslighting?“, with a short response from Dr Paul-Mikhail Catapang Podosky (NYU) and additional live Q&A.

The event will be held live on Zoom on 9 August 2021 at the following times:

  • 6am–10am (UTC -4)
  • 11am–3pm (UTC +1)
  • 6pm–10pm (UTC +8)
  • 8pm–12pm (UTC +10)

This event has been organized under ARC project DE190100719 Hate Speech Against Women Online: Concepts and Countermeasures and the University of Tasmania, with the support of the Australasian Association of Philosophy and Women Doing Philosophy.

Tracy Llanera: Guest on “The Minefield”

Logo for The Minefield.

Listen to Assistant Professor Tracy Llanera's recent guest appearance on The Minefield with Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens on ABC Radio National.

 

In a world marked by wicked social problems, The Minefield helps you negotiate the ethical dilemmas, contradictory claims and unacknowledged complicities of modern life. This episode addresses such questions as whether a nihilistic view of “reality” is corrosive to a robust conception of the moral life? Or are there defensible ways of thinking about moral obligation, as well as moral progress, that don’t rely on transcendental guarantees? Can “meaning” itself give rise to forms of corrosive egotism, which undermine the possibilities of both moral community and moral growth?

 

Want to know more? Check out the accompanying excerpt from Tracy Llanera and James Tartaglia's book, A Defense of Nihilism.