Hallie Liberto (University of Maryland): "Refusals, Commands, and the Scope of Discursive Injustice"

Apr 19, 2023, 4:30 pm6:00 pm
Wooten Hall, Room 301 (Kerstetter Room)
Free and Open to the Public


Event Description

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.