I work on philosophy of language, feminist, social and political philosophy, and the intersections thereof. My dissertation is about normative discourse and social negotiation: I examine the ways in which speakers use language to propose, enforce, reinforce, and modify power dynamics within linguistic interactions. Examples of such language are normative generics -- expressions, like "boys don't cry," whose typical usage conveys more than its straightforward surface content -- presupposition, and non-literal speech more generally. I am also interested in meta-philosophical and methodological questions about work at the intersection of philosophy of language and social philosophy.
My book, Stereotypes and Scripts (forthcoming in the OUP Studies in Feminist Philosophy series), gives an interdisciplinary analysis of generics, social scripts, and stereotypes, by bringing together philosophy of psychology and cognitive science, feminist philosophy and queer theory, social and political philosophy, and philosophy of language.
Normative discourse in the wild.
Generics and Social Justice (Philosophical Studies, 2023)
How to Disrupt a Social Script (Journal of the APA, 2023) open access link
Linguistic Innovation and Metalinguistic Update (in Linguistic Luck: Essays in Anti-Luck Semantics, ed., Carlos Montemayor and Abrol Fairweather, OUP, 2023)
Normative Generics and Social Kind Terms (Inquiry, 2022)
Generics as Instructions (Synthese, 2021)
Normative Generics: Against Polysemy (Thought, 2021)
“New Things With Words: Review of New Work on Speech Acts.” (Philosophical Review, 2020)
“Illocutionary Frustration” (Mind, 2018)
Works in Progress / Forthcoming (drafts available; please email)
Script Disruption and Social Change (forthcoming in Constructing Social Hierarchy. eds. Karen Jones, Laura Schroeter, Francois Schroeter, OUP.)
This paper gives an overview of social scripts; highlights way they can be used to reinforce oppression and injustice; gives an analysis of disruption of social scripts; and connects script discussion to social change. First, I provide a history of the notion of a social script as it is used in philosophy and philosophy-adjacent disciplines. I explicate two main kinds of scripts — structural scripts and interpersonal scripts. Structural scripts encompass the norms, stereotypes, and expectations that pervade a given ideology. Interpersonal scripts are more closely related to a scripted scene in a movie or play. One person says something, the other person says something else, and dynamically, what the first person says partially scripts what the next person says. Interpersonal scripts are tied to patterns of dialogue and model the ways in which one individual responds to another over the course of a given conversation. This paper focuses primarily on the latter kind of script. I then discuss the ways in which these scripts are often taken advantage of to put interlocutors in a double bind: either go along with the script or reject it with social cost or risks to personal safety. I use this to motivate the view that there is reason to disrupt some interpersonal social scripts. Then, I give an analysis of interpersonal disruption according to which the disrupter: (i) calls attention to the script; (ii) does so subliminally or implicitly; (iii) in doing so reveals the script’s workings or assumptions; (iv) results in voiding, subverting, or making the speaker rethink the script.
With a notion of disruption in place, I argue that disruption can and does lead to large-scale social change. While much of the literature on scripts and social change addresses the benefits of introducing new scripts and doing away with old ones, I argue that there is intrinsic value in disruption alone. this paper goes on to propose three mechanisms by which interpersonal script disruption can contribute to large-scale social change. The mechanisms, spotlighting, aggregation, and empowerment, connect scripts to philosophical work on counter-speech, harassment, and empirical literature on scripts and cognition. I argue that each of these mechanisms reveals a different dimension along which disrupting scripts can lead to social change.
Philosophical Intuitions about Socially Significant Language (forthcoming in Hypatia)
As we’re doing philosophy of language that bears on social and political issues, it is worth revisiting the question of how we rely on our philosophical and linguistic intuitions, and what assumptions underlie our justification of such a reliance. At least two threads of thought in the philosophical literature are relevant to this question: first, the discussion of situatedness in feminist epistemology; second, the experimental philosophy literature about philosophical expertise and philosophical intuitions. My argument is that we (analytic philosophers examining social and political philosophy of language) should be careful – perhaps more careful than we have been – when we rely on our intuitions to make claims about what is going on linguistically and socially. Specifically, we should be more careful than we are when we deal with other kinds of language. I don’t think we should give up relying on our linguistic intuitions about racist, sexist, homophobic, and otherwise harmful and derogatory speech. Rather, we should be more explicit that our intuitions are limited, and open to the possibility that they might not align with the intuitions of those most impacted by the the kinds of speech we are analyzing (and that we might have been taking for granted that they do).
Language of Care, Language of Repair
This paper has two aims. The primary aim is to motivate the study of what I call language of care — such as expressions of sympathy, affection, encouragement — from a liberatory and social justice standpoint. If we care about oppression, and language that causes harm, then we should also concern ourselves with language that counteracts the effects of oppression, or, language that heals. The second part of this paper puts language of care in conversation with language of repair — language of apologies, retractions, etc . I argue that one way to think about the function of language of care is by analogy with language of repair. Language of repair is broadly understood as an attempt to undo a harm or a wrong. Language of care should be thought of as a third person use of language of repair; as an attempt to undo a harm or wrong caused by some other party than the speaker.
Intuitions and Deference in Non-Ideal Philosophy of Language
(forthcoming in Routledge Handbook on Non-Ideal Theory)
(forthcoming in Routledge Handbook on Non-Ideal Theory)
Philosophy of language that bears on social and political issues can be understood as non-ideal philosophy of language in two ways. First, such language often deals with justice and injustice in ways that intersect with non-ideal theory; it evaluates and impacts the world as it is. Second, such language (or so some have argued) and its analyses are less abstract than other kinds of language, as a result. This paper argues that relying on intuitions is engaging in a kind of non-ideal theorizing about language, and that seeing it as such can make us more open to the ways in which non-idealized sources of evidence, lived experiences, transcripts of others’ lived experiences, lifestyles, and commitments are all important parts of theorizing about language.
“Newton's De Motu Corporum, Liber Secundus (1685): (co-authored with George Smith, Anne Whitcomb) Book ms. in preparation
A translation and commentary, Article by Article, of Newton's Liber Secundus, including those articles that Newton deleted in their entirety. The commentary is written to be consulted as readers work their way through the translation or examine individual parts of it. Our commentary on each Article compares its contents with corresponding parts, if any, of the first edition of the Principia and highlights features of it that seem especially noteworthy, including changes in substance, and in some cases in mere phrasing, that Newton made to the initial version in Humphrey Newton’s hand.