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Saul, Jennifer M., , . Politically Significant Terms and Philosophy of Language
2012, In Sharon Crasnow & Anita Superson (eds.), Out from the Shadows: Analytical Feminist Contributions to Traditional Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Thomas Hodgson

Abstract: 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.

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