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THE ETHICS OF GENDERED NAMING, THE MORAL DANGER OF LOVE AVOWALS, AND THE MORAL VALUE OF INSULTS

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Abstract

I pragmatically and morally analyze three categories of ubiquitous speech: gendered naming, love avowals, and insults. In Chapter 1, I argue that our naming practices are out of step with widely held social values about gender equality. I identify what I call the BioSex Logic of Naming, according to which strong social norms prescribe that first names track presumed biological sex. I argue gender-specific names and gender-specific pronouns are natural bedfellows, both of which play a crucial, companionate role in reinforcing gender essentialism and maintaining gender hierarchy. I conclude that we have strong pro tanto reasons to jettison both gender-specific pronouns and gender-specific names while also protecting binary trans* people who are at beholden to the current system for gendered uptake. In Chapter 2, I argue love avowals have a morally dark side. At their best, love avowals, such as, “I love you” are welcome expressions of affection and devotion. Love’s positive public image makes love avowals an appealing tool of manipulation. But, like the Trojan Horse, its surface appearance conceals ugly realities. This simplistic veneer diverts our attention away from the normative profundity of love avowals, which often function pragmatically as solicitations, illegitimate demands, excuses, exonerations, and the like. Love avowals conceal tacit bids for commitments that one may not entertain if they were communicated explicitly. I illuminate the pragmatic function of love avowals and argue we ought to be more critical of them, as they play a key role in consequential social scripts, some of which facilitate abuse. In Chapter 3, I argue, contrary to dominant thought, insults are not inherently morally wrong. Insults can have a unique organizing role in social justice movements and reimagining social hierarchies of race and gender. Extant theories generalize the nature of insults from a narrow subset of insults and conceive of them as invariably problematic. This theoretical commitment to the immorality of insults precludes the possibility of developing an ethics of insults. I develop a morally neutral theory of insults that identifies an overlooked variety, third-personal insults, and allows a distinction between permissible and impermissible insults.

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106 pages

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2023-08

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Keywords

ethics; gender; gendered naming; insults; love avowals; pragmatics

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Committee Chair

Manne, Kate

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Committee Member

Starr, William
Murray, Sarah
Markovits, Julia

Degree Discipline

Philosophy

Degree Name

Ph. D., Philosophy

Degree Level

Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document

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Attribution 4.0 International

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dissertation or thesis

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