Document Type

Honors Project - Open Access


These days, more and more social movements are focusing on changing the ways we speak. As a result of these movements, words that were once commonplace until quite recently are being pushed out of our language because of their power to hurt people. This tells us that political groups recognize the power of words to greatly damage us. In this paper, I explore Wittgenstein’s philosophy of language in order to shed light on how we can use language to insult each other. Both the early and the later Wittgenstein are able to account, in some respects, for how we understand insults. Insults rely first on there being a fact that someone can point out about us and second on an injurious normative judgment about these facts. By outlining Wittgenstein’s ideas in both Tractatus Logico-Philosoficus and Philosophical Investigations we are able to create an account of how we can understand these abusive uses of language. Additionally, we can use the later ideas of the Philosophical Investigations, especially his criticisms of his earlier work, to account for how these groups are able to change language and attempt to remove these abusive uses of language.



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