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Department of Philosophy

Forthcoming Research Seminars and Lectures

(For past seminars and lectures see here)

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08th June 2017: Dr Robert Simpson (Monash University) - Conversational Scorekeeping and the Streisand Effect

(28 July 2016)

Weekly Research Seminar

This Weekly Research Seminar will commence at 11:30am in room 005, 48/49 Old Elvet, Durham. Refreshments will be available from 11:00am with the talk commencing at 11:30am.

Title: Conversational Scorekeeping and the Streisand Effect


Mary Kate McGowan’s account of oppressive speech – which is built on David Lewis’s ‘scorekeeping’ model of conversational pragmatics – has certain features that make it the best account of its type, i.e. the best account for defending the hypothesis-cum-conviction that everyday prejudicial speech makes a significant contribution to systems of identity-based oppression. One crucial element in McGowan’s account is the claim that changing the conversational score to enact oppressive norms is easier than changing the conversational score to retract oppressive norms. McGowan asserts this without much explanation or defence. I offer an explanation that supports this claim and also reveals further affinities between her view and Lewisian ideas about language and contextual salience. With this analysis in hand, I then explain why we should expect to find instances of “the Streisand effect” – i.e. the phenomenon in which an attempt to silence speech accidentally amplifies that speech – in the kind of communicative contexts that McGowan is concerned with. If this is right, then it helps us understand some of contemporary issues related to microaggressions, in particular, a possible basis for the claim that contesting microaggressive speech sometimes does more harm than good.


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