Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Amelioration vs. Perversion

Date: 18 April 2018

Time: 15:00

Place: Seminari de Filosofia UB

Abstract

Words change meaning, usually in unpredictable ways. But some words' meanings are revised intentionally. Revisionary projects are normally put forward in the service of some purpose - some serve specific goals of inquiry, and others serve ethical, political or social aims. Revisionist projects can ameliorate meanings, but they can also pervert. In this paper, I want to: (i) draw attention to the dangers of meaning perversions; (ii) argue that the self-declared goodness of a revisionist project doesn't suffice to put forward a viable new meaning. I'll briefly consider whether power or authority play a role in viable revisions; (iii) show that the self-declared goodness of a revisionist project doesn't suffice to avoid meaning perversions. The road to Hell, or to horrors on Earth, is paved with good intentions. (iv) I will then point to problems for ameliorative conceptual engineering projects. Finally and more importantly, (v), I want to demarcate what meaning perversions are, and offer a working hypothesis about how they contribute to "destroy facts of shared reality". I will consider how dogwhistles and code words contribute to corrode social norms, and what lessons we can draw for meaning perversions more generally from these cases.