Event Detail

Thu Nov 17, 2022
4–6 PM
Philosophy Colloquium
Briana Toole
Trojan Horse Speech and Coded Discourse

“Don’t wear that shirt, that’s gay!” “Baby on Board!”. “Well, what was she wearing?” Some of these statements may immediately strike us as problematic, either because of what they presuppose (that being gay is bad) or what they imply (that how one is treated is justified by how one is dressed). But others — like “Baby on Board” — may be equally problematic and yet escape our notice. In this paper, I introduce and unpack a category of speech act that I call Trojan horse speech. Like the Trojan horse of Greek myth, Trojan horse speech presents itself as one thing (a gift from the Greeks, an innocent utterance) while concealing another (the Greek soldiers, covert content). I first show that Trojan horse speech is not analyzable in terms of existing accounts (focusing in particular on implicature, presuppositions, and dogwhistles); they thus beget further analysis. By drawing on Kate McGowan’s (2004) work on exercitive speech, I show that Trojan horse speech introduces covert content by altering the permissibility facts in a domain. Such speech should trouble us, I argue, because of its ability to covertly enact norms and compel our tacit acceptance of these norms, even when they may be counter to our explicitly stated or held values and commitments.