On 12nd December 2014, the Edinburgh Women in Philosophy Group (EWPG) hosted the third annual New Enlightenment Lecture, which was delivered by Prof. Rae Langton (Cambridge) on the topic ‘Authority and Hate Speech’. The New Enlightenment Lecture was created in 2012 as a prestigious, annual event of the EWPG and for a prominent female philosopher to deliver a lecture on a topic of her choice. Following last year’s success the Lecture was preceded by a roundtable discussion on a topic surrounding underrepresentation in Philosophy.
The roundtable this year was structured around the topic “Philosophy and Diversity” which is constituted by two sets of questions, namely (1) What are the possible detrimental effects of lacking diversity in philosophy; and (2) What are the possible practices that we can take to increase the diversity in philosophy. The panel of the roundtable include Prof. Langton, Prof. Emily Brady, Dr. Elinor Mason, Dr. Pablo Schyfter, Dr. Aidan McGlynn and Jie Gao (Chaired by Natalie Ashton).
We were particularly interested exploring the reasons for the systemic ignorance, and exclusion, of minorities in philosophy, and the possibilities for enriching the discipline through acknowledging and supporting these underrepresented groups. Students and staff from Edinburgh were able to share a number of the practical steps we have taken in the department to increase diversity, and Prof. Langton made her own suggestions based on ideas she’s seen in Cambridge and in other departments.
Prof. Langton then delivered the lecture “Authority and Hate Speech”. She examined the interactions between practical and epistemic authority, and how that contributes to the force of hate speech. Drawing on theories of conversational dynamics, she argued that the authority of hate speech can follow rules of accommodation. Such a mechanism allows the authority of hate speech to emerge in informal ways, and derive from unlikely sources: even from innocent, non-hateful law; and even from innocent, non-hateful bystanders.
The Lecture was followed by a lively and productive Q&A session, and the whole day was rounded off with a delicious dinner at Field restaurant.