Ethics Social and Political Philosophy Colloquium, University of Groningen

Wednesday 11th September 3.15pm – 5pm in room Omega, Faculty of Philosophy, University of Groningen.

Rae Langton famously argues that pornographic speech illocutionarily subordinates and silences women. Making good this view hinges on identifying the context relevant for fixing such force. To do so, a parallel is typically drawn between pornographic recordings and multipurpose signs involved in delayed communication, but the parallel generates a dispute about the right illocutionary force-fixing context. Jennifer Saul and myself argue that if pornographic speech is akin to multipurpose signs, its illocutionary force is fixed by the actual decoding context: of using/viewing pornographic recordings. By contrast, Claudia Bianchi has argued in response that the relevant context is intended/expected decoding. Here I take issue with Bianchi’s view. Her intentionalist account faces two serious objections. First, the collapse objection: Bianchi’s intentionalist view is so formulated that it collapses into that endorsed by Saul and myself. This undermines Bianchi’s case against us. Second, the dissonance objection: looking at a different aspect of Bianchi’s view, and one that does depart from our position, shows that Bianchi’s analysis is too intentionalist and cannot be used to elucidate pornography’s illocutionary force. Her view should hence be rejected. This nevertheless leaves open further theoretical avenues of research on what pornography might do, which I briefly discuss at the end of the paper.

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