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SLURRING EPITHETS AND GENERIC DESCRIPTIVISM: The Meaning and the Epistemology of Ethnically Derogatory Terms

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Slurring epithets or slurs like `Frog' and `Boche' are derogative terms but it
is unclear why they are derogatory. This work discusses several proposals
to answer this question. One commonality with the discussed views is that
they all hold that derogation has something to do with semantics, broadly
with the meaning of slurs. I disagree with this. I go on to introduce generic
descriptivism. It is a novel view to handle slurs and it has two distinctive
First, generic descriptivism holds that the nature of derogation is epistemic.
derogation is due to the information which slurs contain. This is
specied with the notion of stereotype. I claim that negative and unwar-
ranted stereotypes are responsible for derogation. This information is not
semantic. That is, it is to be distinguished from the meaning of slurs.
Secondly, the eponymous feature of generic descriptivism is that it
holds that the information which slurs contain is generic. I argue that
generic beliefs are produced with a psychological mechanism of generalisation.
In relation to social kinds, the mechanism can produce xenophobic
generalisations and the use of slurs display these negative beliefs. Derogation
is due to this negative information which the slurs contain.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2017


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