The Philosophy of Offensive and Inappropriate Language

A terrific event in London on August 6 – so all you people who are gathering for the World Humanist Congress in Oxford August 8th could go to this:

“How to Make Enemies and Alienate People – the Philosophy of Offensive and Inappropriate Language”

It’s hosted by our friend Bernard Hurley.

The growth of social media has given an unprecedented opportunity for those who wish to gratuitously offend to actually do so but it has also given an opportunity for those who wish to take offence at mere criticism to express such offence. It’s clear that someone who uses offensive language is doing more than just conveying information, but what exactly are they doing? The job of the philosopher is to clarify, rather than to prescribe and it seems to me that there is urgent need for clarification today. However there has been very little discussion about how offensive language fits into the Philosophy of Language. Drawing on some ideas of Michael Dummett, I shall make some suggestion about how such language might work.

This lecture is part of the 2014 Kant’s Cave Lecture series. As is usual at these lectures there will be plenty of time for discussion afterwards.

Wednesday August 6 at 7:30 p.m.

Exmouth Arms, 1 Starcross Street, NW1 2HR London

I would go to that like a shot if it weren’t 6000 miles away. For many of you it’s just around the corner or a few stops on the tube.


  1. says

    Well just our luck, we’re in London earlier that week, and Oxford for the weekend, but Salisbury that night. Mind you, I’m not sure if the hotels have actually been booked yet….

  2. Claire Ramsey says

    Oh brother if only they had perfected that beam-me-up technology! That event sounds totally fabulous and important. I want to go! Beam me up!

    (Hahaha A friend of mine who is a US born native speaker of English but who grew up in Italy consistently parsed “beam me up” as “beat me up,” to whit, “Beat me up Scotty!” She was stunned to learn that it was “Beam me up.” She said that she could never figure out why Captain Kirk wanted Scotty to beat him up. Yuck yuck).

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