Academic year
Dan López de Sa
Department of Philosophy
Universitat de Barcelona
Master courses
Module 7. Issues in Contemporary Theoretical and Practical Philosophy
2017-02-24 - 2017-05-26
Fri. 10-13
UB, Faculty of Philosophy, room 412



Among the many things that we do with words, one of them is, unfortunately, to derogate people on the basis of their belonging to a racial or ethnic group, having a sexual orientation, and so on. Slurs such as ‘spic’ and ‘faggot’ seem to be words with precisely this conventional function. How do they work? How do some people manage to derogate by using them? How is it that some of them have been (partially) reclaimed by the targets, like ‘queer’ and ‘slut’?

 In the last years, there has been an increasing debate in analytic philosophy of language on the semantics and pragmatics of slurs—also in connection with evaluative talk more generally. This research seminar aims to survey some of the more prominent recent accounts on offer. This will provide a particularly significant domain in which general basic semantic and pragmatic notions are operative—including that of a sentence being true or false at a context, that of the common ground of a conversation (and of how it changes by sentences at contexts where a conversation takes place), as well as those of asserting, presupposing, implicating, accommodating, and others.  


Structure and Contents:


After some sessions dealing with general basic notions, the rest will be devoted to recent contributions offering specific accounts on the semantics and pragmatics of slurs. A detailed syllabus will be made available in due time.



There will be ten regular three-hour sessions. The format will be that of a research seminar, structured around presentations by students and general discussion, led by the instructor.

Learning outcomes:

CB6 – Students should be able to critically understand central texts in the philosophy of language in a way that puts them in a position to develop and apply original ideas.

CB9 - Students should be able to communicate their knowledge and their arguments to specialized audiences in a clear and articulate way.

CG2. Students should be able to design, create, develop and undertake new and innovative projects in their area of ​​expertise.

CG3. Students should be able to engage both in general and specific discussions in the domain of the philosophy of language. They should be able to conduct a philosophical discussion (orally and in written form), by putting forward, for example, general arguments or specific examples, in support of one’s position.

CG4. Students should be able to work both independently and in a team, in an international environment.

CG5. Students should be able to identify methodological errors, rhetorical, conventional and uncritical assumptions, vagueness and superficiality.

CE1. Students should be able to critically engage with the concepts and methods of contemporary philosophy of language.

CE2. Students should be able to identify the core arguments and theories of contemporary philosophy of language.

CE4. Students should be able to assess the writings of leading contemporary philosophers in the field of philosophy and the cognitive sciences.

CE5. Students should be able to identify and critically engage with the current state of a particular philosophical debate, and form a reasoned view, even if provisional, about it.

CE7. Students should be able to critically use specialized terminology in the field of philosophy of language.



Evaluation will be based on the quality of the presentation (10%), of the contribution to discussions (20%), and of an abstract (10%) and a short research paper (60%), on a topic related to the seminar, to be agreed with the instructor in due time.


The purpose is to open the discussion by submitting thoughts, questions, and objections. The total slot for this is up to 10 minutes per person as maximum (less may well be completely appropriate), although people are free to coordinate in the form of joint presentations. If you would like to use a handout and/or beamer, please coordinate with the instructor the week prior to your session. NB: The purpose is not to summarize the paper, that everybody will have read, but to open the discussion, by providing original contributions in the forms envisaged.


Everybody is expected to have read the papers in detail in advance, and to come to each of the ten sessions with thoughts, questions, and objections. We will do our best efforts to comply with the guidelines for respectful, constructive, and inclusive philosophical discussion: 

Research Paper

Short research papers (absolute maximum length, including footnotes and references: 2500 words) are expected on topics to be agreed with the instructor. Proposals should take the form of title and short abstract (<100 words), stating the main claim/conjecture/working hypothesis, as well as a skeleton of the structure of the argument or line of thought. (Tentatively, as the purpose is to coordinate regarding topic and kind of paper.) All materials are to be sent as attached .pdf files to


(Guidelines on evaluation and marking, including a note on originality and plagiarism, available at




Bach, Kent (1999), “The Myth of Conventional Implicature,” Linguistics and Philosophy 22: 327−326.

Lewis, D. (1980). “Index, context, and content”, Reprinted in Papers in Philosophical Logic, pp. 21–44, Cambridge University Press, 1998

Stalnaker, Robert (2002): “Common ground”, Linguistics and Philosophy 25 (5-6): 701-21


Some specific readings (complete syllabus to be distributed in due time).

Anderson, Luvell and Ernie Lepore (2013), “Slurring Words,” Noûs 47: 25-48.

Bolinger, Renee Jorgensen (2015), “The Pragmatics of Slurs,” forthcoming in Nous.

Camp, Elisabeth (2013), “Slurring Perspectives,” Analytic Philosophy 54: 330–349.

Hom, C. (2008), “The Semantics of Racial Epithets” Journal of Philosophy, 416-40.

Hom, Christopher and Robert May (2013), “Moral and Semantic Innocence,” Analytic Philosophy 54: 293-313.

Jeshion, Robin (2013a): “Expressivism and the Offensiveness of Slurs,” Philosophical Perspectives 27: 307-335.

Jeshion, Robin (2013b): “Slurs and Stereotypes,” Analytic Philosophy 54: 314-329