Feminist Philosophers

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On letting implicatures do the dirty work March 12, 2008

Filed under: bias,critical thinking,global justice,language,race,sex — Jender @ 12:01 pm

Geraldine Ferraro has been widely and rightly criticised for saying the following:

“If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position,” she continued. “And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.” 

But now let’s look closely. “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position”. True. In the very, very basic sense that one’s racial identity has a huge effect on one’s life, no mater what sort of life that is. And in politics, where one’s personal narrative is part of what one is selling, that is especially obvious. “And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position.” Again, true, because one’s gender identity also has a huge effect, etc. “He happens to be very lucky to be who he is.” Sure, he’s lucky to be who he is– an immensely successful, immensely talented individual. “And the country is caught up in the concept.” Certainly true for a lot of the country.So nothing false was said.

But– what she conveyed (via implicatures, if one wants to get technical) was that Obama was undeserving of his successes. That his successes were solely a result of his race. And that being non-white is a huge and undeserved stroke of luck in America. All false. And all so offensive and obviously false that nobody would explicitly say them. But all very clearly what she wanted to convey, and what she does convey (to at least many people). And when she is called on her offensive utterance, she can insist that she said nothing false. She let her implicatures do that dirty work.

 

 
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