We are discussing prescriptive grammar in my “Talking Philosophy” class. It called to mind this lovely chestnut from Pinker:
Is Salaita guilty of hate speech or just incivility?
Even if it’s mere incivility, might it be okay for a workplace to refuse to hire an uncivil someone, to preserve a harassment-free working environment?
This article raises a cluster of tough issues at the intersection of philosophy of language and value theory:
Should we so stridently defend “free expression” rights for hateful cartoons?
Could we defend the hateful cartoons while prohibiting extremists on the right proclaiming ‘Get Muslims out of France by any means necessary’?
How would one go about banning the latter while allowing fair comment on the relationship between religious beliefs and violence?
Here is a very interesting link on cyberbullying laws in Canada: http://mediasmarts.ca/backgrounder/cyberbullying-law-fact-sheet.
Some issues for philosophers and others to ponder:
1) With regards to the Civil Law, do any of the three approaches to cyberbullying pose an undue threat to free speech?
2) With regards to Canada’s Criminal Code and Ontario’s Education Act, do their provisions on cyberbullying pose an undue threat to free speech?
Here’s another philosophical problem set. This time, however, I myself am not at all sure what the correct answers are!
1) In the referential use, we have a de re proposition about a particular object. But what kind of proposition does Donnellan think corresponds to the attributive use? Quantificational, i.e., “purely general”? About an object, but where the object is fixed by the circumstance of evaluation? Or something else again?
2) Does Donnellan think that the statement made with an attributive use, where nothing satisfies the description, is lacking in truth value? What about when a description used referentially is “empty”?
3) Is there really reference going on in the attributive use?
4) Is Donnellan proposing a use theory of meaning for definite descriptions?
When I was a grad student at MIT, Richard Cartwright used to assign us philosophical problem sets. Here is one that I am giving my grad students tomorrow.
In ‘The man drinking the martini is tall’, what object is the definite description about according to… Frege, Russell post-1905, Kripke, Strawson, and Donnellan?
[Hint: The question has a false presupposition in several of these cases. To answer it, point out where those lie.]