Chapter

Politically Significant Terms and Philosophy of Language

Jennifer Mather Saul and University of Sheffield

in Out from the Shadows

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855469
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932788 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199855469.003.0009

Series: Studies in Feminist Philosophy

Politically Significant Terms and Philosophy of Language

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Philosophers of language have tended to focus on examples that are not politically significant in any way. We spend a lot of time analyzing natural kind terms: We think hard about “water” and “pain” and “arthritis.” But we don’t think much about the far more politically significant kind terms (natural or social—it's a matter for dispute) like “race,” “sex,” “gender,” “woman,” “man,” “gay,” and “straight.” In this essay, I will try to show, using the example of “woman,” that it's worth thinking about terms like these, for at least three reasons: (1) There are some interesting puzzles. (2) Politically significant terms matter to people's lives— and it's worth spending at least some of our energy thinking about things that matter in this way. (3) Most importantly, interesting methodological issues emerge at the intersection of philosophy of language and politics.

Keywords: woman; gender; sex; contextualism; trans; intersex

Chapter.  8623 words. 

Subjects: Feminist Philosophy

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