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Inferentialism, Representationalism and Derogatory Words

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In a recent paper, after outlining various distinguishing features of derogatory words, Jennifer Hornsby suggests that the phenomenon raises serious difficulties for inferentialism. Against Hornsby, I claim that derogatory words do not pose any insuperable problems for inferentialism, so long as it is supplemented with apparatus borrowed from Grice and Hare. Moreover, I argue, derogatory expressions pose difficulties for Hornsby's favoured alternative theory of meaning, representationalism, unless it too is conjoined with a similar Grice/Hare mechanism. So, the upshot of the discussion is that, contra Hornsby, focus on derogatory expressions alone does not provide grounds for deciding between competing theories of meaning, but nevertheless serves to highlight important features that any such theory must acknowledge and incorporate.
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Keywords: derogatory words; inferentialism; prescriptivism; representationalism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Reading, UK

Publication date: 2007-06-01

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