When truths convey falsehoods

The general idea should be pretty familiar to philosophers of language. But its political ramifications remain under-appreciated. This article does a great job. Those who have jumped on the generics bandwagon will have lots to say about the role of generics in conveying these falsehoods. I’m less convinced that the generics are doing crucial work, but the examples are all excellent.  A small sample:

There is an infinite number of facts about any one ethnic group; so the issue isn’t whether certain facts are correct or not; but which facts are chosen.

If the only time Romanians are spoken of is when they pick pockets, or when they’re seen as unwanted migrants, then the public will end up with a totally skewed view of them. We’ll learn nothing about their history or why they came to Britain, or even get a decent idea of what they do here.

When we hear about white criminality, such as football hooliganism, lager louts or paedophile rings, we already have enough other information about white people to be able to contextualise this, so we don’t leap to conclusions, and we don’t have high-level discussions about a “crisis within whiteness”. But in the absence of counterbalancing stories, it’s all too easy to begin to build stereotypes about minority communities.

(Thanks, R!)


Nancy Hartsock, 1944-2015

We note with sadness the news that Professor Emeritus Nancy Hartsock of the University of Washington has died. A political theorist, a feminist thinker, and a philosopher of social science, Nancy Hartsock was the author of many articles, and books including The Feminist Standpoint Revisited and Money, Sex, and Power: Toward a Feminist Historical Materialism. Nancy Bauer wrote on FaceBook, “Her work was absolutely critical to the flourishing of feminist theory. The particular way she spelled out the idea of a feminist standpoint is brilliant; we owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. The University of Washington, where she taught for many years, is raising funds for an endowed prize in her name. Please consider donating. You can contact Christine DiStefano in the PolySci department at UW.”

It is a custom at FP to cite a few lines of the author whose passing we are marking. Scholars who cite her work are welcome to offer notable passages, but I am most drawn to reproduce her words from the Introduction to Feminist Standpoint Revisited:

I never set out to become a feminist theorist. Indeed, when I set out to become a political theorist, such a choice was impossible because feminist theory in anything like its present form did not exist. Nor did I set out to become (in whatever sense I have become) a Marxist, since in terms of my graduate education, that possibility too did not exist. In looking over the essays that I have chosen to reprint I find myself asking how it happened. Each of these essays grew out of and responded to questions that arose from the social contexts in which I found myself. …they are autobiographical in that they respond to issues I found urgent at different times.

She is a model to which we should all aspire. May you write in response to the questions that arise from  your social contexts.