Ira W. DeCamp Bioethics Seminars
There are various types of wrongs classified as forms of discursive injustice: illocutionary silencing, communicative silencing, and sincerity silencing. Though each account is different, the overall phenomenon is: Discriminatory social attitudes generate misinterpretations on the part of people, H, of the speaker-meanings involved in the communicative acts of people, S, who belong to a subordinate group. These misinterpretations either silence S’s speech acts, silence S’s acts of communication, or prevent S from accessing the conversational benefits associated with being interpreted as sincere or serious. Much of this literature focuses on sexual consent and sexual refusal – yielding a set of cases where the interpretive outcomes are high-stakes. One distinction favored by all the authors writing on these injustices is as follows. DID: S can be wronged by having her sexual refusal ignored/defied in H’s practical deliberations. S can also be wronged by discursive injustice that prevents S from communicating sexual refusal to H, and by its practical consequences for S. But these are two very different descriptions of wronging. I will argue that discursive injustice cannot produce misinterpretations of sincerity that prevent H from understanding his changed normative circumstances. This is – in part – because sincerity is not applicable to the part of the speech act effective in changing the normative world. Next, I will argue that discriminatory and subjugating misinterpretations of a speaker’s seriousness simply do not count as discursive errors. Finally, I will explain why these conclusions undermine DID.
Hallie Liberto is an associate professor at the University of Maryland - College Park. She works primarily on moral topics dealing with normative powers: promises, consent, threats, warnings, and related speech acts. Liberto has just published a book called Green Light Ethics: A theory of permissive consent and its moral metaphysics with Oxford University Press.