Kathleen Stock (Sussex): Pornography, speech acts, and fiction

Kathleen Stock (Sussex): Pornography, speech acts, and fiction

24th January 2018 - 4:15 pm,


Abstract

In the course of arguing for her wider and well-known view that pornography literally silences women, Rae Langton suggests that a piece of pornography is, inevitably, a speech act: an act of speaking. In this view, she is accompanied by Ronald Dworkin and by Caroline West (with whom she is a sometime co-author); she also, at least on the face of it, shares the assumption with a dominant interpretation of the US constitution, according to which the First Amendment should protect pornography under the aegis of free speech. On the other side of the debate are those who argue that a piece of pornography is not and cannot be a speech act. These include philosophers such as Jennifer Hornsby, Jennifer Saul and Louise Anthony.  One striking thing about this debate that it apparently operates at a level of complete generality: either pornography always is a speech act, or it never is. I will argue that neither of these conclusions is acceptable. In particular, I will draw an instructive comparison with non-pornographic fiction, which in some cases can correctly be said to deliberately convey a message, as speech does, but in other cases clearly does not.


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