The Meaning and The Epistemology of Ethnically Derogatory terms

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Pinni B4141, address: Kanslerinrinne 1.



Research seminar of philosophy

Pasi Valtonen (PhD): The Meaning and The Epistemology of Ethnically Derogatory terms


Ethnically derogatory terms or slurs are terms like 'Limey' for the English, 'Boche' for the Germans and the infamous 'n-word' but it is difficult to say why exactly they are derogatory.Usually, it is thought that derogation has something to do with the meaning of slurs. In contrast, I am proposing a novel view, an epistemic view. According to the view, derogation is based on epistemic features of slurs. Any view on slurs has two basic objectives. First, it should explain why slurs are derogatory. Secondly, it should explain the understanding of slurs.

These are obviously connected: We find slurs offensive because we understand them, not because they are gibberish. The two objectives seem obvious enough but the previous views on slurs treat these surprisingly distinct. My proposal aims to explain both aspects as the developed view aims to treat slurs as expressions of xenophobic beliefs.

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Jani Hakkarainen,