Pragmatics can shed light on racial hate speech and pornography, but only if we bring it down to earth. Five models for hate speech and pornography are distinguished: a conditioning model, an imitation model, an argument model, a speech act model, and its descendant, the pragmatic model.
A speech act model distinguishes illocutionary and perlocutionary dimensions of speech: e.g. hate speech can incite, and cause, hatred and violence. The pragmatic model tries to capture these dimensions via an account of accommodation. It can indeed illuminate racial hate speech and pornography, but only with amendments that go ‘beyond belief’. Lewis and Stalnaker showed how ‘score’ or ‘common ground’ of conversation accommodates to moves speakers make, and the hearer’s belief adjusts accordingly.
This picture needs extending to make sense of hate speech and pornography: we need to allow for the accommodation of other attitudes, such as desire and hate.
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